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Safety Tips: Babysitting

The whole idea of babysitting can stir up a wide range of emotions in both parents and potential babysitters. Here are some safety tips for parents and another set of tips for babysitters, although everyone should read both sets of guidelines so that both parties are aware of the other’s concerns.

For parents:

  • Plan ahead. Begin your search for the right sitter and prepare your household for putting an outsider (possibly a teenager) in charge. This process will also involve childproofing your home and establishing a list of willing emergency contact people who can help the sitter if you can’t be reached.
  • Don’t rule out a teenager, especially for short outings. A responsible teenager can be just as reliable as an adult and they often do a better job of engaging children in activities. Kids who have a hard time separating from parents will also usually warm-up to a teenager more easily.
  • Begin your search for a sitter “from the inside, out.” Start with family members and then proceed to close friends and neighbors, followed by members of your religious or community organizations.
  • Conduct an interview with all potential sitters and find out how much experience and training they have had. A reliable and friendly personality is not enough. They need to know how to recognize and avoid potential hazards and they must know how to handle an emergency.
  • Find out if the sitter is certified in infant and child CPR or if they have attended a babysitter training course. If not, and you really like the sitter, offer an opportunity to attend one of these courses which are offered locally through various organizations like the Red Cross.
  • Include a clear list of your expectations in the interview. Give a detailed description of your children and tour of your home so the babysitter knows the full extent of the job before they commit.

For babysitters (especially teenagers):

  • Begin your babysitting career in the homes of families that you know well, such as your own family, neighbors and close friends of your family.
  • Sign-up for a babysitters training course. These are periodically offered locally at hospitals, community centers and churches. If you cannot find one, speak to an adult in your neighborhood or your school about contacting your local Red Cross and bringing one to your area.
  • Only take jobs that you are sure you can handle and in an environment where you feel safe. Make sure your parents know where you are.
  • Ask the parents to leave you an emergency contact list with their cell phone numbers and several names and numbers of other responsible adults as well as a list of rules, instructions, and areas that are off-limits.
  • While on the job: NEVER open the door to strangers. Don’t tell strangers on the phone that you are the babysitter and never go outside to check on something unusual, like a strange noise.
  • NEVER leave a child unattended - even for one second – especially in the kitchen, bathroom or around water.
  • If there is an emergency, call 911 first, so help is on the way, then contact the parents.

The Red Cross website offers some excellent resources online for parents and babysitters. These include a Family Interview Form, which the babysitter gives to the parents to fill out; a Family Information Card, which the parents leave for the sitter; a Report Card, which the sitter fills out during or at the end of the job detailing all events and behavior of children; and several other forms and guidelines available to download and print for free.

They also sell a Babysitter’s Handbook and a first aid kit. You can find them at http://www.redcross.org/services/hss/courses/babyindex.html or you can call the Red Cross of Greater Miami at 305-644-1200.