JavaScript is not enabled in your web browser. In order to enjoy the full experience of the Sittercity website, please turn on JavaScript.

Safety for Parents:
Steps to Selecting the Right Caregiver

Follow these steps to gather information, evaluate your options, and help determine which caregiver is the best fit for your family.

1. Start by screening potential candidates

Conduct an initial screening to create a short list of caregivers who fit your family’s needs.

Review caregiver profiles

When you receive applicants for a job or search local caregivers, closely review their experience, education, certifications, and hourly rate.

Read parent reviews

See what other Sittercity parents who’ve hired a particular caregiver in the past have to say. Their insight about a caregiver’s performance and personality can help you decide if someone is a good fit for your family.

Run Basic Background Checks

It is important to know that background checks are not automatically run on caregivers. So once you have a short list of candidates, we recommend you run a Basic Background Check on each one. This preliminary check will search county court records to see if their names appear. If a candidate does not pass this part of the screening process, we’ll remove them from the site for the safety of all Sittercity families.

2. Interview candidates to identify your top picks

Once you’ve narrowed your search to three to five candidates, it’s time to conduct interviews. Not sure what to ask? We provide an Interview Questions Guide for every stage of the process.

Reach out to your short list

Remember that it is always necessary to act with caution when communicating with anyone you do not know. We recommend when you connect with a potential caregiver, you communicate through the Sittercity website and don’t give your last name, personal e-mail address, home address, phone number, place of work or other identifying information in initial messages. Also, don’t hesitate to stop communicating with anyone who pressures you for personal or financial information and notify member services immediately.

Conduct phone interviews

Start with a brief phone interview with candidates you’d like to get to know. Just ten minutes over the phone can help you determine a lot about their professionalism, personality, and experience. Listen to your intuition — if something doesn’t feel right, take a pass on that particular candidate; no amount of questioning will settle those initial feelings.

Meet for in-person interviews

Now you should have a good feeling about which caregivers might be a good hire. Meet your final list of candidates face-to-face to ask more in-depth questions. You’ll want to make sure you’re both on the same page about job specifics, discipline, responsibilities, and any other expectations you may have. For your initial in-person interview, you should meet the caregivers at a coffee shop or other popular public place with other people around. Always provide your own transportation and tell someone in your family or a friend where you are going and when you will return. That way you can further evaluate each caregiver before inviting them into your home.

Get kid approval

Even if you’re already leaning towards a particular candidate, be sure to introduce them to your children to see how everyone interacts. If things go well, your kids could help you identify the top candidates. And if a caregiver has trouble handling your kids while you’re around, she probably can’t handle them while you’re out.

3. Verify your caregiver’s history and background

Once you’re done with interviews, you might feel like you’ve found the perfect caregiver. Great! Just a few more steps to help you make your final decision.

Check references

Reach out to the references listed on the caregiver’s profile to gain additional insight, and don’t hesitate to request more references. Be sure to verify the information your potential caregiver has given you is correct and ask questions about how she performed on the job. See our Reference Check Questions for ideas.

Look for clues elsewhere online

Chances are your potential caregivers have several online profiles that can provide clues about their personality and hobbies. Search caregiver names online and check out social media activity to spot any red flags.

Run a more comprehensive background check

If you’ve only run Basic Background Checks on your short list of sitters, before selecting your final candidate you should run an Enhanced Background Check. If your caregiver will be driving your children, we recommend you run a Motor Vehicles Records Check as well. These checks can provide more information about a caregiver’s background to help make your final decision. Read more details about what each background check covers.

4. Monitor the relationship to ensure its still a good fit

Once you’ve hired a caregiver, observe them on the job to ensure they’re meeting your expectations. When you get home, ask for a brief progress report on how the day went. It’s also a good idea to ask your kids how they’re enjoying their time with her; their reactions or feelings could reveal a lot about what’s happening when you’re not around.

Watch for caregiver warning signs

Warning signs include lack of energy and enthusiasm, a patronizing attitude, or reluctance to change. Additional signs include the caregiver blaming your child for problems or issues they didn’t cause or demanding a level of perfect behavior no child could meet.

Watch for child warning signs

The following signs could indicate something more serious than a poor match:

  • Child’s behavior changes drastically (becomes excessively clingy or aggressive)
  • Child cries, screams, and begs you not to leave when the caregiver arrives
  • Child develops unexplained bruises, cuts, or burns
  • Child loses appetite or starts having recurrent nightmares
  • Child acts disinterested when caregiver arrives

These are just a handful of examples. If you observe any warning signs, take action immediately.

Check in frequently to monitor progress

Good communication with your caregiver will lead to a good relationship. Be sure to get at least a five-minute report when you return home. Once a month, sit down with your caregiver and get her perspective on how things are going.

Ask your kids questions

Ask your children open-ended questions about their day, but try not to judge or lead during the discussion. Respect your children’s feelings and always take them seriously, especially negative comments.

Pay attention to changes in your children’s behavior

Keep an eye out for sudden behavioral changes, drastic mood swings, or any of the warning signs we mentioned above. As for your caregiver, pay attention to suspicious decisions or actions.

Ask a neighbor to keep an eye out

Enlist a trusted neighbor to keep a casual eye on things when you’re gone. Ask them to let you know if anything seems questionable.

Come home unannounced

An unexpected drop-in lets you see how your caregiver interacts with your child. It’s a great way to get a feel for how things are going when you’re not there.

Install a nanny cam

Installing a nanny cam often helps parents ease any fears about leaving their child with a caregiver.

Leaving your child with a new caregiver can be tough; with these tips, you’ll feel more secure and confident that you’ve found the right fit for your family. In return, your caregiver will feel trusted and valued — a great start to a strong relationship with one of the most important people in your child’s life.

Jump to Top