Check the sitter's background
Before you hire a person to come into your home and look after your children, you should conduct a background check, says Efrat Cohen, a licensed private investigator in Florida, New Jersey, and New York. "When we do a background check on a babysitter we look for any criminal records, sexual assault incidents, any robbery, or kidnapping charges. We also look for any driving records in case the babysitter will have to drive the kids around," Cohen says. "All these factors are so important to know before trusting someone with your kids and letting them in your home." (Here are 20 things your babysitter secretly thinks about you.)
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"Do your homework on the prospective sitter," recommends Kasey Edwards, co-founder and CEO of Helpr, an on-demand babysitting app that will get you a screened sitter (CPR certification included) to your door in as few as three hours. "Call references and ask thorough and open-ended questions, look for time gaps in resumes, and ask for different types of references like a roommate."
Use online resources, but proceed with caution
There's another growing option for babysitting leads, online resources. According to a recent article in the Denver Post, Web-based services like Care.com, UrbanSitter.com, and SitterCity.com connect families with local sitters, with many offering user reviews and easy-to-access background checks. "No matter what method you choose, though, parents say finding the right person comes down to doing your own research. That includes doing in-person interviews, checking references, and running basic background checks," says the article. Katie Bugbee, global parenting expert at Care.com, told the Denver Post. "To sit at that dinner table with an extra level of comfort and relaxation in the person you hired, it's worth the due diligence."
Make sure you're on the same page
Laura Davis, a franchise owner of College Nannies + Sitters + Tutors, says parents must discuss how discipline and other issues will be handled. "Find out how he would handle a child having a tantrum. What about bedtime routines like bathing and changing diapers? Is he certified in CPR? Ask him if he drives and how he would handle an emergency if your child needed to be taken somewhere," says Davis. "You really need to sit down and have an interview with a prospective sitter."
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References are important. "Speak with them, don't just request the numbers," says Charlupski. "Make sure it is a person that they have provided similar services for and not a friend or family member. We do extensive research on references to make sure that it isn't someone that they know too personally, it should really be professionally." Even though references may check out, a formal drug test and background check is recommended.
Let your children chime in
Davis says to ask your children, if they're old enough, for their thoughts. "Get the family involved," she says. "Since your children are the ones most affected by this decision, make them part of the process. Plan a meet and greet with your children and your top sitter or nanny candidates and observe how everyone interacts."
It's OK to be picky
According to an article from the University of Rochester Medical Center, when you're looking for a babysitter, give yourself enough time to be selective. The article suggests to look for a sitter within your circle of friends, religious organization, or other community groups; select someone who already works with children; and have the sitter spend time with you before babysitting to meet the children and learn their routines.
Have a trial run
Meet with the babysitter a day or two before to set expectations. "When hiring a babysitter the most important thing that we feel you can do (if time allows) is meet with the sitter before the day that she actually begins working," says Rachel Charlupski, founder of The Babysitting Company, a firm that interviews, hires, and trains professional babysitters for hotels, travel, special events, private residences, and sports teams. "This way you and your children will be familiar and excited about this person."
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Realize trust takes time
Establishing trust takes time, but you can work on building it fast by taking the challenge on upfront. "Ask for simple tasks to be accomplished at the end of the first few shifts, and see if the sitter caters to the checklist."
Take social media presence into account
"I always tell parents to ask potential babysitters if they have a social media account and then to take a look at it," says Jeffrey Kelly, owner of MyFirstPaycheck.com, a platform that provides training and information for teens and college students looking to find their first job. "Every now and then you will see something that is not consistent with the values or behaviors you have for your family," he says. That's a sign that the babysitter is not for you. (By the way, here are types of photos you should never post on social media.)
Keep tabs on social media gong forward
After a few babysitting sessions, Kelly says he sends friend requests to his sitters. "It is a great way to build a relationship and keep in touch outside of the very short periods of time at the beginning and end of a job," he says. "It also allows me a little insight in to what the sitter is doing when he isn't babysitting." You can also see if he is posting on Instagram or Facebook accounts when he is supposed to be actively watching your child (you may, for example, be OK with social media use after your child's bedtime). (Here are things you should never share about your kids on social media.)
Be a good boss
Sitters tend to respond to mutual respect, says Edwards. "Build that trust on your end by being a great employer. To do that, notice the things that are above and beyond and say thank you," like sweeping the kitchen floor or caring for your child's 'ouchy' with special TLC," she adds. "You'll can tell a great sitter by your child's reaction to her; if your child smiles when the sitter arrives and cries when she leaves, you've got a great one. Parents should also text or call when they're on the way home so the sitter has a chance to tidy up." Communication is key to the successful building of trust, and a bit of mutual flexibility goes a long way.
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