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Choosing A Baby Sitter For Your Child

Apr 17, 2008
Many parents prefer to choose a baby-sitter or nanny to care for their child if he or she is under age 3. This option can be the most convenient, because the caregiver comes to your home. Your child will also be in a familiar environment and will avoid exposure to colds and other infections from other children. Hiring a nanny is one of the most expensive child-care arrangements, but the biggest difficulty is finding a reliable, well-qualified person. Because in-home care is not regulated in any way, you are the sole judge of a caregiver's character, knowledge, and skill.

Start your search at least 2 to 3 months before you go back to work so you have enough time to make a thoughtful decision. Ask friends and neighbors for recommendations. Before hiring or accepting an offer to baby-sit from relatives or friends, be sure they are qualified to care for your child and that you would feel comfortable giving them instructions or disagreeing with them on child-care issues that are important to you. Avoid hiring someone who is looking for something to do until a better offer comes along. To find candidates, check with a local agency that provides training and placement for in-home providers. Ask your doctor for names. Check child-care ads and place your own help-wanted ad in your local newspaper, local college career services office, and community bulletin board or newsletter. Specify the hours and days you need child care, your child's age, the general area in which you live (but don't give your address), and whether or not you want the sitter to live in or have a driver's license. If you require a nonsmoker, say so.

Your child's caregiver should have training in child development or have experience taking care of children. The caregiver should also appreciate the importance of stimulating your child's intellectual, social, and emotional development. He or she should be able to communicate well so your child can build his or her language skills. Your caregiver should respect your philosophy of child rearing and understand that you are the ultimate authority for making decisions about the care of your child. He or she also needs to guide your child's behavior with positive reinforcement rather than physical punishment.

Even if you work with a child-care agency that prescreens candidates, you should participate in the screening process. First, screen candidates over the phone to eliminate those who don't seem right. Listen to your gut feeling, even if you are under the gun because you need help immediately. Ask whether or not they're available the hours you need them, their salary needs, how long they can commit to the job, what interests them about child care, what kind of work they have done in the past, and when they can start. Invite the best candidates to your home for an interview. Some parents develop a job application form to make the hiring process more formal and professional.

Once you have a candidate in mind, contact at least three former employers and three personal references. Ask former employers about the candidate's responsibilities, his or her strengths and weaknesses and the ages of the children that they have worked with.
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