Safety Report: Searching for a Safe Sitter

Posted: Updated: Dec 1, 2011 09:18 PM EST

Leaving children in the hands of a stranger is one of the hardest moments for parents.  A babysitter who seems like Mary Poppins, could have you dialing nanny 911.  So how can you guarantee you're not inviting trouble into your home?

Three-month-old Jack is a bundle of joy for Charlottesville parents Lisa and Eric Stites.  "He's our first, so it's a learning experience," said Lisa.

This working mom and dad are searching for a sitter to care for baby Jack when they can't be home, or just need a break.  Lisa stated, "Obviously, at some point, we're going to want a night out and need a babysitter."

Jack may not be on board with being left in the hands of a stranger either, and there are all the horror stories parents hear about bad babysitters.

"You want to take care of him, make decisions that are good for him," said Lisa.  "It's one of those things where there's not a manual for what you're supposed to do when you want a babysitter."

Jennifer Hallock and Binky Wheeler, the co-founders of Sitterwise, are guiding parents through the process to pick a perfect sitter.  Hallock stated, "We just saw how frantic it was trying to find babysitters."

These moms decided to develop a website where parents can pay a membership to tap into a roster of sitters.  "As a parent, having to go through the interview process and make sure you have a safe babysitter and reliable babysitter and trustworthy babysitter is another time consuming process," said Hallock.

If you are sitter searching on your own, follow a few quick rules:

  1. Interview an applicant in-depth - ask them how they would spend the day with your child, and what they do to punish bad behavior.
  2. Check references.  Even if the sitter comes recommended by a friend or neighbor - check with other parents.
  3. Don't feel shy asking to do a complete background check.

Hallock said, "I wouldn't trust my child with anyone I hadn't background checked or made sure that they were a safe babysitter."

Wheeler also recommends observing how the sitter interacts with your child.  "Have time with your child and the babysitter if it's going to be a long term.  Have them so the child is comfortable and enjoys the babysitter," Wheeler said.

For the Stites family, building that trust will be the hardest part when they finally feel comfortable leaving their most precious possession in the hands of a sitter.  "I think at some point we're just going to have to trust someone.  I'm not really there yet," Lisa said.

Also make sure to select a sitter who is up to date on child CPR certification.  For more tips to find a babysitter, click here.