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Safety Tips for Selecting a Babysitter

A Guide for Parents and Grandparents

By

It is preferable to personally interview several prospective sitters. Observe their interaction with your children. Look for mature and responsible people who listen and respond well to your children and appear relaxed and happy with them. Be specific about your expectations. Ask for a number of references (e.g., past employers, teachers, counselors, relatives, friends, neighbors.)

If you have not already done so, ensure that you have his or her name, address, and telephone number. If the sitter is not an adult, you should also meet his or her parents.

Once you have made a tentative selection, check all references carefully. Assure references that their comments will not be revealed to anyone, including the sitter. Ask them if they believe that the sitter possesses the demeanor, responsibility and qualifications to care for children. Ask if they would hire this person to care for their children. If anything said by a reference makes you feel uncomfortable, it may be best to select another person to care for your children.

When the Babysitter Arrives

Ask your babysitter to arrive at least fifteen minutes before your departure time. If the sitter has not been in your home before, conduct a brief tour of the house. Point out the location of telephones, first-aid equipment, doors and other possible exits.

Ensure that the sitter fully understands specific responsibilities and your general expectations. This includes knowing:

  • That the children are not to be left alone at any time.

  • Family rules, including disciplinary guidelines.

  • Daily routines, including eating, television, and sleeping arrangements.

  • About any food allergies that your children may have.

  • Emergency telephone numbers: relatives, friends or neighbors and emergency services.

  • How to contact you. Write down where you will be (address and telephone number) and your cellular telephone and/or pager numbers.

  • That all outside doors should be kept locked and to never open the door for anyone (unless you have given prior permission.)

  • That information should not be given to callers. Sitters should tell a caller that you are unavailable and should take a message.

  • That children should be watched closely while awake, especially if taken outside, and should be checked regularly after they have gone to sleep.

  • Who the children may play with or visit.

  • Rules associated with use of your belongings (e.g., telephones, computers, appliances.)

  • That friends should not be invited into your home.
Parents are also responsible for ensuring that children understand that the babysitter is in charge and that they are expected to follow all family rules.

When You Return Home

When you return home, you should always have a discussion with the babysitter. Ask about:
  • Children's behavior and activity.

  • Telephone calls.

  • Anything our of the ordinary.

After the babysitter has left, talk to your children about what happened while you were gone. Ask them:
  • If anything made them feel afraid or uncomfortable.

  • If they would like him or her to babysit again.

In New York, the Kieran's Law allows parents to request fingerprint background checks of in-house care givers who provide care for more than 15 hours per week. Check to see if you state has a similar law.

Parents in New York should contact the DCJS Records Review Unit at (518) 485-7675 for forms and fee information.

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How to Prepare for a New Babysitter
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