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Keeping Your Kids Safe With Caregivers

Aug 17, 2007
When you have children, it can seem as though danger lurks around every corner. This sections looks at the realities of keeping children safe from harm while helping them develop their independence.

As parents, we want to make every effort to find someone trustworthy to look after our children. When you're searching for a babysitter, it's a good idea to get recommendations from other local parents. Check references carefully - speak to other families who have used the babysitter, and all other people listed as references.

Trust your instincts - never use someone you feel uneasy about. If you don't feel comfortable with the babysitter or carer, why would your child?

Whenever possible, use a babysitter who's over 16, and who seems mature and sensible. There's no law to cover this, but both the NSPCC and the Children's Legal Centre recommend 16 as the minimum age. Under this age they can't be held legally responsible for any harm that happens to a child.

Babysitters aren't required to have qualifications of any kind, but you may feel more comfortable using someone with knowledge of first aid and child development.

Allow time to meet and talk to the babysitter before leaving your child with them. Explain anything they need to know about your child, such as bedtime or feeding routines, ways to comfort and likes and dislikes. Let the babysitter know what types of television programmes, videos and computer games you find acceptable for your kids, and how long they can spend watching and playing them.

Always leave a number where you can be contacted in an emergency.

Leaving your child at a day care facility while you work has some considerations, too. It's advisable to talk to other parents, too and to follow up recommendations. Unlike babysitting, there are regulations governing childcare. Check with your state.

For your own peace of mind, it's a good idea to run through some checks to satisfy yourself that your child is in safe hands.

Make sure that any person who will be caring for your child is experienced and well trained and has the necessary qualifications if required.

Always take up references for carers who'll be caring for your children in your home.

Visit any out-of-home care setting before you leave your child there. Think about whether the other children seem happy.

Ask carers what would happen if there's an accident or emergency. Do they contact parents? Do they have safety procedures in place?

Make sure the carer knows the only people allowed to collect your child.

Babies and very young children probably won't be able to tell you if you something has gone wrong while you were away. Even slightly older children, who do have language, mignt not be able to explain if something has happened.

Look out for any changes in your child's behaviour or mood. Always ask the babysitter or carer for an explanation if your child has a cut, bruise or other injury.

Watch out for any changes to behaviour or moods that indicate your child is unhappy or not settled. If you're concerned about the welfare of your child in any form of care, remove them from the situation.
Discuss the problem with the carers, and if necessary, take steps to make a formal complaint.
In a serious situation, contact the police, your local social services department or child protection team.
About the Author
Joyce Jackson is a safety expert and consultant in northern California. For her latest book and information see Keeping Kids Safe.
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