Source: CCO license No attribution required
With the holidays upon us, many parents may be looking for babysitters to watch their children while they celebrate the season. Each year it is estimated that between 7000-8000 cases of child sexual abuse by babysitters are reported to authorities. While this number is considerably less than the number of cases of child sexual abuse committed by family and friends, it is not negligible. Thus, parents must take precautions when selecting someone to care for their children. Below are the top five things parents need to consider when choosing a babysitter for their children.
- Check references and criminal records. All prospective babysitters should provide three references for other/previous employers or character references (if a teenager). Not only should you obtain these references – but you must call them and speak to them in person. In addition to assessing their ability to work with children you also want to know why they no longer work for that person and why. When speaking to character references you can ask them if they would have any hesitation with the individual watching their children. Many online babysitting companies will run a background check for you and you should always check the national sex offender registry at nsopw.gov.
- Do not assume that just because you have a family member watching them, your children will not be abused. While no one wants to believe that a loved one will harm their children, 34% of all cases of sexual abuse reported to authorities are committed by a family member. As noted above, sex crimes committed by non-familial babysitters are significantly less frequent than those committed by family and friends – so just because someone is related to you does not automatically make them safe.
- Select a female to watch your children. It is estimated that about 90% of child sexual abuse is perpetrated by men. While this means that there are some female sex offenders (it is estimated between 4-10% of all sexual abuse is perpetrated by females), the risk is significantly lower for a female to be an abuser than a male. Also keep in mind that teens commit about 1/3 of all offenses against minors, so even if your babysitter is a minor themselves does not make them incapable of committing sexual abuse.
- Install video monitors in your home and let the babysitter know they are there, and that you are watching them (even if you are not). Most home alarm companies now have live streaming options that can be set up in common areas so that you can monitor what is going on in the home when you are not there. You can also buy your own live streaming cameras for approximately $25 where you can view what is going on in app on your phone. Even if you do not regularly check, this extra level of vigilance may be enough to prevent any abuse from happening.
- Trust your gut and listen to your children. Before you have anyone new watch your children, have them come over to meet and interact with your children. If you do not have a good feeling about them or your children beg you not to leave them alone with the babysitter, then err on the side of safety and stay home or find someone else.
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