Rating the Suburbs 2013: Sitter Search

Give grandma a break. Take our advice on how to hire the best person to watch your children.

If your trusted baby sitter is heading off to college or grandma is finding it more difficult to manage the adventurous little ones while you're away, you may be on a quest to find a new baby sitter. Wondering where to begin? First, formulate a list of your expectations, says Michael Gerard, executive director of Childcare Solutions in Beachwood, an in-home care provider placement agency. "Take off your parent hat, and put on your employer hat," he says. "Come up with a written job description with as much detail as possible." He also suggests having at least six potential baby sitters. "It takes some time and energy to get your list of qualified sitters established, and it needs to be maintained, but it can be a lifesaver when you need it," he says. Get your list started by following these rules.

» SEARCH WITH CARE. With homework, extracurricular activities and social obligations, it's not as common as in decades past to find neighborhood teenagers who are available, Gerard says. Websites such as Care.com and Sittercity.com connect families with potential caregivers, although the responsibility is on the parents to do their own due diligence. Those sites offer preliminary checks, but details are scant since Ohio doesn't require counties to report arrest or conviction records to online databases. "Parents don't know what they don't know," Gerard says. Look for candidates who are college-age or older and are CPR- and first-aid certified. Expect to pay between $10 to $12 an hour with another $1 per hour for each additional child, he says.

» GET ON THE SAME PAGE. Before you leave the house, review your written list of expectations, including meal preparation, media use, bedtime and even whether your sitter is responsible for light housekeeping. Prominently display emergency contact information. It's also courteous to provide food for the caregiver if he or she is working during mealtime. If your baby sitter doesn't have a car, finalize transportation with the sitter's parents. "We prefer the care provider not use bikes or public transportation," says Gerard, citing the safety risks. And if your caregiver uses his or her car to take the children out, reimburse for gas costs. Never expect your sitter to pay for caregiving expenses.

» NIX THE NANNY CAM. How do you know if your baby sitter is performing her duties to your satisfaction? "Your children will tell you," Gerard says. "You will know by their reaction. Are they acting out? Or are they happy to see the sitter again?"

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