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Sites like Care.com don’t screen childcare providers, but here’s how parents can

What you need to look for when hiring a babysitter or childcare provider.

what parents need to do when hiring childcare

Whether you're looking for a day care provider, a nanny or just a casual babysitter so you can have a date night, finding and vetting quality childcare can be really hard. Parents put a lot of trust in word of mouth, and online marketplaces like Care.com, but as the Wall Street Journal reports, sites which list childcare providers don't always vet them or run background checks. In the end, that's up to us parents.

In a statement to Motherly a Care.com spokesperson explains "we do not currently run preliminary screens on the care businesses listed on our site but have made the existing notice about that more prominent," and that Care.com is exploring solutions to verify the identities of users posting on the site. The company has recently changed its process for approving and managing individual caregiver profiles. As of this writing, newly enrolling caregivers are able to prepare applications to jobs and complete their profiles, but Care.com isn't releasing any applications or messages from new caregivers on the site until the new preliminary screening processes are complete.

Care.com recommends parents confirm the personal information of potential candidates found on Care.com, interview them and run a background check, noting that it is "a process that takes time, thoughtfulness and rigor."

So here's what parents need to do when hiring a childcare provider:

1) Do Google and social media searches first

Google the name of any day care center, day home provider or babysitter you are considering and see what comes up. If the day care made the news due to an abuse claim or other problematic situation you might want not even want to continue looking into them and can just scratch them off your list.

If you're considering a day home provider, look not only at the social media accounts for their business but also at any public social media accounts for any adult living in the home.

2) Verify any claims about licenses

It's unfortunate, but sometimes day care providers will create online listings stating that their day home or day care center is licensed by the state when it, in fact, is not. The process for checking on a provider's licensing depends on what state you're in.

According to Child Care Aware, "in some states, parents can view inspection reports online. In other states, parents must contact their local licensing office for that information."

To check if your state lists the inspection reports online, check out the Child Care Aware resources map and click on your state.

3) Ask about safe sleep practices

Day homes and day cares should never be putting children down for naps in strollers, swings or car seats, but unfortunately this does happen frequently and can lead to tragic consequences.

Parents should ask questions about where and how babies and children nap at a day care or day home. Babies should be sleeping in a firm crib, bassinet, or Pack n' Play that meets the safety standards of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), the American Academy of Pediatrics notes. There should be nothing in the crib with them.

Toddlers and preschoolers should be napping on safe, low surfaces (like cots). In center-based care settings a staff member should be supervising napping children at all times.

Day care centers or day homes should be able to show you where and how the children nap. If they don't want to, that's a big red flag.

4) Criminal reference checks

Any adult who is present in a childcare setting should have passed a criminal background check. For center-based care, ask how the center checks the backgrounds of all staff members, from early childhood educators to janitors and kitchen staff. Day care centers should be running comprehensive background checks on all employees who have access to the building.

For home-based care, any adult living in the home should have a recent criminal background check available for parents to see. This includes the spouse of the caregiver and any adult children living in the home.

If you're hiring a nanny or babysitter, they too should have a recent criminal record check from the local police service handy. If they don't have a current copy, they should be comfortable with you requesting they provide a new one.

5) Ask about supervision ratios (and make sure they're accurate)

When we're talking about infant care, an adult should only be caring for about four babies at a time. Child Care Aware recommends centers align with the following best practices, and ensure workers are always within sight of each other so that no one worker is never alone with the kids.

  • For babies 0-12 months: 3-4 children per caregiver, max group size of 8 children
  • For babies 13-23 months: 4 children per caregiver, max group size of 8 children
  • For 2-year-olds: 4-6 children per caregiver, max group size of 12 children
  • For 3-year-olds: 7-9 children per caregiver, max group size of 18 children
  • For 4 and 5-year-olds: 8-10 children per caregiver, max group size of 20 children
  • For 6 to 8-year-olds: 10 children per caregiver, max group size of 20 children
  • For 9 to 12-year-olds: 12 children per caregiver, max group size of 24 children

6) Ask about health and safety practices

If vaccinations are a concern for you, ask if your care provider accepts staff and children who are not vaccinated so you can find care that aligns with your beliefs. Center-based daycares should be able to show you where the first aid kits are kept and how many staff members (all of them, ideally) have been recently certified in First Aid and CPR. There should be policies regarding the storage and dosing of medication for children.

Home-based care providers should also be certified in CPR and First aid and be able to show you where medications are stored (out of reach of children) and how they make sure medications and doses do not get mixed up.

In both center-based and home-based care, exterior doors should be locked at all times.

Bottom line: Parents need to be detectives

When choosing a center or individual to care for your child, it's important to ask as many questions as you have. It's not rude, it's just our jobs as mamas. Ask about curriculum, discipline, nutrition and don't be afraid to follow up.

Ali Dodd is the founder of Shepard's Watch, a community dedicated to advocating for safe child care. Dodd lost her infant son Shepard four years ago when his day care provider put him down for a nap in a car seat and he asphyxiated (it should have been a flat crib, as per the AAP). As Dodd recently told Fox 25 News in Oklahoma, parents should never be afraid to ask questions of a potential or current child care provider.

"It feels like, by you bringing this up, you may be rubbing your provider in the wrong way or you're communicating to them that you don't trust them. But a good provider would never feel that way. Ever," she explains.

"If parents have to be a detective I want them to know how to do that. It's the most important thing to do before putting your child in day care while you're at work," says Dodd.

Dodd suggests that parents don't just do background checks when enrolling in child care, but also periodically as your child remains in care. "I would set an alert on your phone if you're using a home or center. Put a recurring alert because you won't know until you check. And no one is going to tell you," she explains.

If you live in a state where inspection reports are online, it's pretty easy to take a peek every few months.

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As you build your baby registry, look for products that go the extra mile to make your life a whole lot easier. For example, what's better than a bassinet? A bassinet that can rock by itself. And what's better than a traditional baby monitor? One that allows you to actually take a peek at your baby. Believe us when we say these upgrades can make all the difference.

Here are 10 baby gadgets that will make your life so much easier… relatively speaking, of course!


A bassinet to promote safe + sound sleep

HALO Innovations Bassinest Swivel Sleeper Essenta Series Nautical Net

The safest place for your newborn to sleep is in your room, but not in your bed. Thanks to the swivel function of the Halo Bassinest, you can easily tend to your baby during the night—which means more sleep for you, too. Trust us when we say that is the best gift you can give a new parent.

$239.99

A smart swing for your baby

4moms mamaRoo 4 Bluetooth Enabled High-Tech Baby Swing - Classic

Believe it or not, many babies are born with strong opinions about how they want to be rocked, swung or shushed to calm down. With the mamaRoo's various motions and reclining positions, you'll be able to find a setting your baby loves when you need to free up your hands for a bit.

$219.99

A complete travel system for car + sidewalk

Chicco Bravo Travel System - Indigo

No matter where the day takes you—or what mode of transportation you need to get there—getting a complete travel system for your baby will equip you for anything.

$379.99

A swaddle you don’t have to wrestle

Love To Dream Swaddle UP Original

What do babies and Harry Houdini have in common? A knack for breaking out of tight constraints—which can be a headache when swaddling is the best way to help promote good sleep. Thanks to a breakout-proof swaddle that allows your baby to sleep with their hands up, you don't have to work up a sweat just to get your baby comfortably swaddled.

$29.99

A nursery wherever you need it

Baby Trend Lil Snooze Deluxe II Nursery Center

During the early days of parenting (when you are feeding and changing your baby around the clock), having convenient access to everything you need with a go-anywhere nursery station can save you serious time and energy.

$99.99

A little help for stuffy noses

Fridababy NoseFrida Nasal Aspirator

Up until the point years down the road when your child is able to blow their own nose, the sniffles can be a real struggle—but not with a nasal aspirator that makes it easy for you to get that snot out of their nose.

$15.99

A way to keep an eye on your baby

VTech 5" Digital Video Baby Monitor - VM5251

Trust us when we say you'll sleep better when you know your baby is also sleeping soundly. That's why we're so thankful for modern-day video monitors, which allow you to check in on your sleeping baby without running the risk of waking them up when you sneak in for a peek.

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A bassinet for hands-free rocking

Simmons Kids Silent Auto Gliding Elite Bassinet - Odyssey

Babies are soothed by rocking motions. But what does that mean for you if you can't rock them throughout the night? With an auto-gliding bassinet, they can comfortably drift off to sleep... and continue snoozing.

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An easy way to contain diaper smells

Diaper Genie Expressions Pail

Sometimes it's the little conveniences that make a big difference in the quality of your day-to-day life. That's why a great diaper pail should not be undervalued: By containing the smell, you will save yourself dozens upon dozens of trips to the garbage can.

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A white noise machine that pulls double duty

Hatch Rest Sound Machine, Night Light & Time-to-Rise

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$59.99

And as for securing all these awesome products? Well, a Target baby registry is the way to do it. By creating your baby registry with Target, you will also enjoy their Year of Benefits registry program, which includes perks like a welcome kit with more than $100 in savings and samples, two 15% off coupons to complete your registry, and a full year of returns. The benefits are better than ever right now: Target just launched the Year of Exclusive Deals perk as one of its registry benefits, and this includes a year's worth of discounts on baby essentials (think diapers and formula) and comes complementary when you sign up for Target Circle.

Because while parenting may not be "easy," deciding to register with Target definitely is an easy decision. Start your Target baby registry now and enjoy shopping with a Year of Benefits featuring a Year of Exclusive Deals available via Target Circle, two 15% off coupons, a year of hassle-free returns, a free welcome kit and more!

This article was sponsored by Target. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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Make frantically fishing around for a diaper a thing of the past!

As any parent knows, the term "diaper bag" only scratches the surface. In reality, this catchall holds so much more: a change of clothes, bottles, snacks, wipes and probably about a dozen more essential items.

Which makes finding the exact item you need, when you need it (read: A diaper when you're in public with a blowout on your hands) kind of tricky.

That's why organization is the name of the game when it comes to outings with your littles. We pooled the Motherly team of editors to learn some favorite hacks for organizing diaper bags. Here are our top tips.

1. Divide and conquer with small bags

Here's a tip we heard more than a few times: Use smaller storage bags to organize your stuff. Not only is this helpful for keeping related items together, but it can also help keep things from floating around in the expanse of the larger diaper bag. These bags don't have to be anything particularly fancy: an unused toiletry bag, pencil case or even plastic baggies will work.

2. Have an emergency changing kit

When you're dealing with a diaper blowout situation, it's not the time to go searching for a pack of wipes. Instead, assemble an emergency changing kit ahead of time by bundling a change of baby clothes, a fresh diaper, plenty of wipes and hand sanitizer in a bag you can quickly grab. We're partial to pop-top wipes that don't dry out or get dirty inside the diaper bag.

3. Simplify bottle prep

Organization isn't just being able to find what you need, but also having what you need. For formula-feeding on the go, keep an extra bottle with the formula you need measured out along with water to mix it up. You never know when your outing will take longer than expected—especially with a baby in the mix!

4. Get resealable snacks

When getting out with toddlers and older kids, snacks are the key to success. Still, it isn't fun to constantly dig crumbs out of the bottom of your diaper bag. Our editors love pouches with resealable caps and snacks that come in their own sealable containers. Travel-sized snacks like freeze-dried fruit crisps or meal-ready pouches can get an unfair reputation for being more expensive, but that isn't the case with the budget-friendly Comforts line.

5. Keep a carabiner on your keychain

You'll think a lot about what your child needs for an outing, but you can't forget this must-have: your keys. Add a carabiner to your keychain so you can hook them onto a loop inside your diaper bag. Trust us when we say it's a much better option than dumping out the bag's contents on your front step to find your house key!

6. Bundle your essentials

If your diaper bag doubles as your purse (and we bet it does) you're going to want easy access to your essentials, too. Dedicate a smaller storage bag of your diaper bag to items like your phone, wallet and lip balm. Then, when you're ready to transfer your items to a real purse, you don't have to look for them individually.

7. Keep wipes in an outer compartment

Baby wipes aren't just for diaper changes: They're also great for cleaning up messy faces, wiping off smudges, touching up your makeup and more. Since you'll be reaching for them time and time again, keep a container of sensitive baby wipes in an easily accessible outer compartment of your bag.

Another great tip? Shop the Comforts line on www.comfortsforbaby.com to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices. Or, follow @comfortsforbaby for more information!

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that supporting Motherly and mamas.

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You'll obsess over these newborn baby pictures.

Bethany Menzel: Instagram + Blog

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