Jocelyn Lucas Rosenberg's maternity leave was almost up, and it was time to hire a sitter for Nina, her 3-month-old daughter. After interviewing a dozen candidates, the mom from Brooklyn offered the position to a seemingly wonderful woman. "She appeared to be an open, gentle person, and her references had wonderful things to say about her," says Rosenberg.
It wasn't until she had been on the job for a few months that Rosenberg learned the horrible truth from the other sitters in the neighborhood. Instead of going to the park during the day, she was leaving the neighborhood, baby in tow, to spend time with her boyfriend. It even turned out that the references who had sung her praises were fake. "When I found out, I felt like I was the worst parent in the world," Rosenberg says. Luckily, Nina was fine. Rosenberg fired the sitter immediately and has since found one she loves and trusts.
The moral of this story: If you're looking at licensed childcare facilities, chances are that the city or state has run background checks on caregivers for you. But if you're hiring a babysitter or nanny to watch your child in your home, you'll need to play the detective. It may seem strange to investigate someone who you hope will become almost as close to you as a family member. But even though it's expensive and time-consuming, the security you'll gain from having your questions answered will set the stage for a much better working relationship -- and help ensure the safety of your child.