Lives Made Better | winter 2011

Leave Your Child in Good Hands

How do you ensure that your child is safe and well-cared for when you’re away from home? Whether it’s a care provider for every day or a babysitter for one evening, choosing carefully and providing clear instructions will help your child stay healthy and happy in your absence, and for years to come. Here are some tips for choosing babysitters and child-care providers.

When Choosing a Babysitter

  • Meet potential sitters in advance, interview them about their background and experience, and check references. If you plan to hire a teenager, also talk with his or her parents.
  • Pay prospects for an hour of child care while you’re at home. Watch how the sitter interacts with your child. If your child is old enough, ask for opinions afterward—and listen to them.
  • Inform the sitter of your child’s allergies or other special needs. Go over basic safety information, such as where fire extinguishers and the first aid kit are kept, and how to reach emergency services such as fire, ambulance, and poison control.
  • After selecting a sitter, give him or her a tour of your home and discuss your rules and your child’s routines. Leave a list of phone numbers where you can be reached, in addition to contact information for neighbors, relatives, and your child’s doctor.

When Choosing a Child-Care Provider

  • Decide which option is right for you: a caregiver in your home, in someone else’s home, or in a child-care center. Each approach has its own pros and cons and one may be better for your family.
  • If you decide on a child-care center, visit several places before making a choice. Stay for an hour and observe the activities, inspect the surroundings, and interview the staff.
  • Consult a checklist. Many organizations, including the National Association of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies, offer free online publications that list what to look for in a child-care provider. For instance, you’ll want to ask how many staff members per child, and what licenses and accreditations the center has earned.
  • Look for red flags. These include staff that changes often, staff members failing to answer your questions, your child saying there are problems, or frequent unexplained accidents.