One of the toughest decisions parents make is who to entrust their child to when they are not there. Parents often rely on convenience and do not ask the tough questions. Friends and family are generally the first choices for most parents in search of a nanny or babysitter. Also, neighbors often barter services to provide a much-needed night out. If those sources do not work, several in-home child care businesses can refer applicants on whom they collect background checks and collect biographical information.

Dawn Olson, a regional human resource manager for one local child care business, stated that they perform a behavioral-based interview with potential nannies and determine the ages of children the caregiver prefers. Ms. Olson said it is very important that the nanny/babysitter is watching kids in the age range he/she prefers.

When selecting a nanny/babysitter, parents need to ask these difficult questions.

  • Why do you like watching children?
  • What do you look for in a family you serve?
  • What is your hourly rate?
  • Have you ever been arrested?
  • Are you OK if a job runs late?
  • Do you know CPR/First Aid?
  • Have you attended a SafeSitter course? (offered at YMCAs)
  • What do you do when a child refuses to sleep or throws a tantrum?
  • What kinds of discipline have you implemented in the past?
  • What do you like to do with kids on a day like today?
  • Do you have any pet allergies or food allergies?


Give the nanny/babysitter all personal contact information, time returning, the location of first aid box and children’s medications.

Parents should give the nanny/babysitter specific instructions on how and when to contact them. For example, if the child has been crying for 20 or 30 minutes for an unknown reason, the nanny/babysitter should know they can contact the parent, especially if this child has been unwell or has health ailments.

The caregiver also needs to be aware of the house rules. What time do children eat or sleep? Are they allowed to take the children anywhere?

Parents need to verify that the nanny/babysitter is performing his/her job as expected. Parents should come home unexpected, request background checks, use electronic surveillance and talk to the children about what they did while the parents were not present.

Please be thorough and do not take the first person who says ‘Yes.’