How to Find a Trustworthy and Reliable Babysitter

Babysitter playing with children
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Securing a trustworthy and reliable babysitter is not a simple task. Here are some tips to aid in the process of finding sitters to interview, questions to ask during the interview, calling references and hiring a babysitter.

Where to Look and What to Ask When Trying to Find a Babysitter

The best place to start looking is within the community you know, including your church, local schools, neighborhood, or your workplace. Once you have some options, it's important to check references. These may come from teachers, youth group leaders or from other families who have used the sitter. When you contact families the sitter has worked for, ask how many kids they have. Also, find out if they ever had any problems with the way the sitter interacted with their kids.

Observe Babysitter Interaction With Your Kids

The next step is to invite the sitter over to ask questions and see how they interact with your children. This type of interaction shows the level of comfort your prospective sitter has with children. It is important to choose a babysitter that aligns with your method of parenting. Be sure to ask about the sitter's training in first aid or CPR. Discuss what they may do in certain emergency situations. A competent sitter will be able to answer these questions and prove they can handle the job.

Determine If He or She Qualified?

Check your sitter's qualifications against these characteristics recommended by the American Red Cross Babysitter's Training Program: Do they have First aid/CPR training? Do they display maturity, good judgment, and common sense? Do they appear friendly, responsible and fun? Does the sitter smoke? Are they neat and organized? Beyond any qualifications, it is most important that you go with your gut. Do you get a good feeling about the sitter and do you trust this person with your child?

Ask About Cost

Ask babysitters what they charge upfront so there isn't any confusion or discomfort when they show up to watch your kids. Babysitting rates differ by location, numbers of children, experience, and many other factors.

Plan for Early Arrival

After you hire a sitter, have them come to your house a half-hour before you leave to go over all emergency issues. "More than half the parents who leave their children with babysitters under 16 don't leave emergency telephone numbers," says Dr. Keener.

Discuss House Rules and Leave Contact Information

Make sure you discuss your house rules with the sitter and always leave a number where you can be reached at all times. Leave information about any schedules (feeding or sleeping), any food allergies, specific likes and dislikes and other important information a sitter will need to best care for your children. In the event of a life-threatening emergency, a medical professional is permitted to treat your child, experts say. But if it is a non-life-threatening injury, they will need parental consent to treat.

Call Home to Check on Kids and Babysitter

During the evening, be sure to call home, especially if you are not easily accessible. Call home at a time when you may be able to head off a potential problem, such as a half-hour after bedtime when the kids may be refusing to go to sleep. You could suggest some ways for the sitter to convince them to go to bed. Consistency between caregivers is very important when it comes to sleeping, eating, and discipline.

Get a Debriefing After You Return Home

Consider debriefing with the sitter when you get home. Ask specifically about areas where you think the sitter may have had trouble. Often, sitters think your child's behavior is a reflection on them and may be reluctant to admit any behavioral problems unless asked. Choosing a sitter with training in handling emergencies and checking the sitter's references will make you more comfortable and your children safer.

Ask Your Kids About the Sitter

Depending on the age and personality of your children, you may get a good sense of the sitter based on information from your child. Did your kid have fun? Were they fed and happy when you returned? Many kids cry or display separation anxiety when their parents leave them with a new sitter, so pay more attention to your child's behaviors and feelings when you return and not when you are saying goodbye and walking out the door.

By Robin McClure
 Robin McClure is a public school administrator and author of 6 parenting books.