Tips for Placing Your Child in the Care of a Family Member, Neighbor, or Friend during COVID-19

Child Care Resource & Referral (CCR&R) Agencies throughout Wisconsin are maintaining up-to-date lists of child care providers in their region that are remaining open to care for children of health care and other essential workers. For information about open child care programs near you, contact your local CCR&R. Find my local CCR&R

During this emergency situation, your CCR&R’s first priority continues to be helping children and families find safe, local child care, and connecting families with resources in the community. Please do not hesitate to reach out.

However, as schools and some child care programs close due to COVID-19, many parents are turning to family, friends, or neighbors for child care. This can be an excellent solution with proper preparation and precautions.


If you have asked a family member, friend, or neighbor to provide child care, these 7 tips can help create a safe and successful transition

1. Be aware of how many children this person will be caring for

By Wisconsin law, an adult without a child care license or certification may care for no more than three children under the age of 7 (unless the care provider is a relative or guardian, or has been employed to come to the home of the child’s parent or guardian). If care is being provided for four or more children, the care provider MUST have a child care license or certification. If you are asking your relative, neighbor or friend to provide care, they must adhere to these requirements. Check with the potential care provider to ask whether they are licensed and regulated, and if not, confirm that they are following these guidelines.

These restrictions are put in place for the safety of the children; to become licensed or certified, care providers take courses preparing them to successfully care for and support the unique needs of multiple children.

Information about licensing can be found here:


2. Know where the care will be provided

It is important that you are familiar with the setting in which your child will be cared for every day. Whether it is in your own home or someone else’s home, we recommend you take a purposeful walk through the space looking for any furniture, cords, chemicals, sharp objects, or anything else that could be a danger to your child. If your new care provider does not usually supervise children for extended periods of time, they may not immediately notice ordinary items that could be dangerous.


3. Share information about your child and his/her needs

Before anyone starts caring for your child, you should share as much information about your child as possible. It is important that the child care provider knows what to expect and that you are on the same page in terms of the level of care your child needs. Remember that there will be a period of adjustment as your child and his/her new care provider get to know each other.

Information to share should include:

  • Does your child need diaper changes or help going potty?
  • Does your child have any special medical needs or requirements?
  • Is your child able to play alone or does he/she require constant attention and supervision?
  • How much television and screen time is your child allowed to have?
  • How sensitive is your child to noise and distractions?
  • What makes your child angry or frustrated?
  • What makes your child happy?
  • What are your child’s interests?
  • What foods does your child like and not like?
  • What rules/expectations is your child expected to follow at home?
  • What consequences is your child accustomed to? (ex: “time out,” losing a toy privilege, etc.)
  • Is there certain language your child is accustomed to? (ex: “good choices and bad choices,” “hands to yourself,” etc.)
  • Do you have any other tips that could help the care provider build a positive relationship with your child?


4.Try to keep your child in his/her regular routine as much as possible

Most children thrive on routines, and being removed from school or regular child care has likely been a big change for your child. We recommend you write down your child’s normal routine and review it with your new child care provider (and your child, if age appropriate) to determine which parts of the routine can be remain the same, such as nap times, meal/snack times, play times, and learning times.


5. Make sure your child has developmentally appropriate activities

It is important to remember that your child’s development is continuing even through this situation, and the care they are receiving now should support that development. Your child should have a selection of activities or toys that are appropriate for their age and development in order to keep them engaged throughout the day. For school-age children this could include educational materials, for younger children it is likely toys. If your child is receiving care at someone else’s home, you may need to bring toys or materials from your own home to ensure your child is kept busy and is still learning.

You can also plan at-home activities, games, and art projects to support your child’s development:

  • Googling “home activities for [your child’s age]” will return plenty of results
  • SFTA’s Pinterest pageIncludes Boards with activities to support early learning in literacy, math, science, emotional development, and much more
  • Scholastic Learn at Home
  • LakeShore Learning free at-home activities and worksheets
  • Kaplan educational activity ideas
  • Free online tutoring – St. Norbert and UW-Oshkosh teacher-education and human services students are offering free online tutoring for students of any age


6. Conduct a basic background check on the care provider

Due to the COVID-19 emergency, background checks are currently suspended in Wisconsin. However, we strongly encourage you to do some research on any potential care provider. Even if the care provider is a family member, friend, or neighbor, you can never be too cautious when you are trusting your child into someone’s care. We recommend using extra caution and requesting references if you do not know the provider at all, and especially if they sought you out rather than you finding them.

At a minimum, we recommend you Google the potential care provider’s name and search in the Wisconsin Department of Corrections Sex Offender Registry


7. Ask the care provider to review these child health & safety resources

This is especially important for providers caring for infants and toddlers, who are at risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) or Shaken Baby Syndrome if they are not handled safely. At a minimum, we are recommending that everyone caring for children under the age of 5 take a few minutes to review the following free resources:

The owner of this website has made a commitment to accessibility and inclusion, please report any problems that you encounter using the contact form on this website. This site uses the WP ADA Compliance Check plugin to enhance accessibility.