In-home care, in which your child's caretaker comes to your home, is in many ways the most convenient for parents. In-home sitters range from trained nannies, who may have training in child development and first aid, to women who, although not trained formally, have had many years' experience caring for children, including their own. Or you might opt for an au pair, a young person, usually a woman in her early twenties, often from abroad, who lives with your family.
You can advertise for a nanny or sitter in your local paper or on community bulletin boards, or you can register with an agency. Word-of-mouth, however, is often the best source. Ask everyone you meet who has had a sitter; someone whose child no longer needs full-time care may be delighted to have a sitter she values highly go directly to another family. Good sources for finding sitters who are no longer needed by a family include local nursery schools. Many parents post the names and numbers of their sitters who are soon to need new jobs.
When you interview a prospective sitter, be prepared with your questions; have them written down, since it's easy to forget what you wanted to ask. Request proof of identity, current address, and names and phone numbers of references. Check the references, making sure to ask why the sitter is no longer working for that family and whether the former employers would hire the sitter again. Following are questions to ask the sitter that will help you evaluate her as a potential caregiver:
For many parents, hiring a sitter is their first experience of being an employer, and most are unsure how to develop and strengthen the relationship with someone who is such an important person to the family. It's essential that you and the sitter agree on what the job entails. Have a written agreement spelling out the parameters of the job -- the hours, the pay, the benefits, when payments are made, the additional compensation for additional hours, vacations, etc.
Take the following steps to assure your child's safety and your sitter's safety as well.