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Babysitting is the transfer of childcare responsibilities from the parent or guardian to another responsible person. For babysitting to be successful, everyone must be involved in planning and safety.

Parents must ensure that their home is safe for their children and the babysitter. It is the parents’ responsibility to let the children know that the rules are to be obeyed when the parents are out of the house. The children must respect the babysitter by listening to and following their instructions.

Babysitters must understand how the home functions and be able to deal effectively with emergencies. As a babysitter, you are entrusted with a child’s life. Your primary responsibility is to care for the children’s needs, keep them happy and most of all: keep them safe.

This guide is not a definitive resource but is intended to highlight the areas where possible problems may exist. You will find tips for the babysitter, for the parents, and some tips for commercial daycare centres. We have mixed all of the tips into what we think would be a natural progression of events. Much of the information in this guide makes good sense on a daily basis and will help to make your home safer at all times. We hope that both parents and babysitters will read this guide to be sure that everyone understands what is involved in caring for children.

Finding the Right Family/Babysitter Match

Finding an employer

Babysitters should not advertise their availability for babysitting jobs in supermarkets, community bulletin boards, drug stores, or laundromats. The best sources of childcare employment are the recommendations of family, friends, and neighbours. The concern with open advertising besides making your phone number public, is that it is more difficult to determine the suitability of the employer. If you wish to respond to an advertisement for a babysitter, consider having your parents make the contact for you.

Finding a babysitter

Parents can advertise their need for a babysitter in the newspaper or through a local high school, church, or civic organization. If parents are new to the area, check the Yellow Pages of the telephone book for a list of professional child care services. In some areas, you may be able to obtain a listing of childcare services through Municipal offices. In the Toronto area, you can look for services in the Yellow Pages under babysitters.

Certain babysitting services advertise that their babysitters are bonded. This means that the babysitting service has purchased an insurance bond that will cover certain damages or loss of your property. The bond however, most likely will not protect your children in any way.

Determine whether the commercial babysitting service has made a criminal history check on or has otherwise screened its employees. To help you determine the suitability, we have listed some questions you may wish to use in determining the suitability of a location. Have a look at our Daycare Centre Questions.

Get to know your employer

Babysitters should get to know their employer before taking a job. Check references if it will be the first time working for a family. Ask to speak with previous babysitters. If contacted by a person unfamiliar to you, ask who recommended you and check it out before accepting the job. To protect yourself, make sure you or your parents know and trust the family for whom you will be babysitting. Let your parents know the address and phone number of where you will be in case of emergency.

Know how many children you will be babysitting. Get specific information about the bed times, foods, medicines and any other special instructions. Be sure that you are able to meet all of the requests before accepting the job. Ask if there are any pets that you may be allergic to.

Know who you will be babysitting. Babysitting a 6-month-old baby is very different from babysitting an 8-year-old child. That is why you will need to know the ages of the children ahead of time. If you don’t feel comfortable babysitting a very small baby, or if listening to a 2-year-old ask 9,000 questions makes you want to scream, then do not take the job. You must feel that you are in control while you are on the job, and if you’re unsure, it’s better to wait for the next job.

Get to know your babysitter

Ask for a résumé or a list of references. Parents, know how many children your babysitter is capable of caring for. Asking a babysitter to be responsible for more children then they are comfortable with compromises the children’s safety – your babysitter can’t be in those many places at once. Parents may wish to use two or more babysitters if the situation warrants it.

Personally interview several prospective babysitters and observe their interaction with your children. This meeting will let you see how the sitter works with the children and will help the children to become familiar with the sitter. After the interview, ask your children what they thought of the perspective sitter. Parents should outline the babysitter’s duties and responsibilities and discuss an imagined emergency situation and how he or she might react. Ask the sitter how they would handle misbehavior. When you decide on a babysitter who meets your high standards, discuss the hours and fees for service. Ask to speak with the babysitters parents. Also write down his or her name, home address, and telephone number and, if an adult, the driver’s license number.

As a parent you want the best possible care for your children while you are away from them. Check all references, contact the sitter’s past employers, teachers, counselors, relatives, friends, or neighbors and ask about the sitter’s qualifications for childcare. Before you hire anyone to watch over your children, however, make sure that he or she is a mature, experienced, and capable individual who truly cares about the welfare of children.