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Tips for Hiring Caregivers

As parents and caregivers, we must often rely on individuals outside the immediate family to take care of our children.  To ensure safety we must ask appropriate questions of potential caregivers.  Some of these questions may be a bit scary but our own discomfort should be second to safety.  Be confident in knowing that by asking the right questions, you are demonstrating your awareness, knowledge and committment to preventing child sexual abuse. 

Screening individual caregivers*:

  • Check the background of a potential caregiver through law enforcement.  You will need permission from the individual to conduct the search and personal information like date of birth and social security number. And always check references.
  • Let child care providers know that you may make unscheduled visits, and then follow through.
  • Ask the person if he or she has ever identified an abused child and gauge their reaction to see if they would minimize or justify abusive behaviors.  Ask the person if he or she has ever been accused of abusing a child and again gauge their reaction. 
  • Be clear with a potential caregiver about your family rules for safety including physical boundaries, personal and physical care, and discipline.  Let them know you are vigilant with regards to safety and that your child knows the safety rules.

Here are some additional tips:

  • Always ask for recommendations and keep a list of screened babysitters before you need them so you aren't rushed to use someone you don't know well. 
  • Be wary of someone who is over eager to watch your kids, like offering to babysit for free or offers to babysit just to "give you a break." 
  • Bath and get your child ready for bed before a caregiver arrives. 
  • Watch for “grooming behavior" which might include physical horseplay, tickling, kissing, hugging, massaging, invading child’s space or privacy, like walking in while they are in the bathroom. 
  • Set boundries with simple things like candy or TV time and consider it a red flag if a babysitter doesn’t respect these boundaries.
  • Watch and listen to your child; observe before, during and after time with a caregiver; look for any changes in behavior.
  • Follow all of these tips regardless of the age of the caregiver as older youth and teens can also be perpetrators of abuse. 

*Portions excerpted from "Protecting Children from Sexual Abuse: a Guide for Adults" by M. Elizabeth Ralston, Ph.D. and Polly Sosnowski, MSW.