Department of Family Services – Children, Youth and Families

CONTACT INFORMATION: Monday–Friday 8 a.m.–4:30 p.m.
703-324-7500 TTY 711
12011 Government Center Parkway, Pennino Building
Fairfax, VA 22035
Oriane Eriksen

Selecting a Babysitter

These guidelines have been developed by social work professionals in collaboration with members of the community. They represent the minimal acceptable standards for selecting a responsible babysitter. Remember, these are guidelines only. There may be some situations within these guidelines when it may not be safe to leave a child with a babysitter. Parents are ultimately responsible for making decisions about their child’s safety.

Major Considerations:

  • Generally, age 13 is the minimum recommended age for a babysitter. In making decisions about who is an acceptable babysitter, consider not only age, but maturity.
  • The physical environment where the babysitting takes place must be safe.
  • The babysitter must possess a level of maturity necessary for applying solid judgment and decisionmaking skills. There must be no emotional, medical, or behavioral problems affecting this ability.
  • The length of time, the number of hours, the age and number of children, and the time of day must be consistent with the babysitter’s age and ability. As the age and level of maturity of the sitter increases, so can the level of responsibility.
  • The babysitter should have access to a responsible adult who can offer assistance if necessary.
  • The babysitter must know how and when to get help and have a safety plan for what to do in an emergency.

Other Considerations:

  • Is the sitter comfortable around children?
  • Does the sitter possess basic childcare skills?
  • Does the sitter show a responsible attitude?
  • Could the sitter respond to any special medical needs your child may have?
  • Does the sitter have experience with children?
  • Does the sitter know basic first aid and CPR?
  • Has the sitter demonstrated responsible behavior in the past?
  • Does the sitter have references? Have you checked them out?

Before leaving your children with a babysitter, have you …

  • Informed the sitter of your family’s safety plan for emergency situations and ensured that the sitter is able to carry out the plan?
  • Made your expectations for food preparation and bathing realistic?
  • Left a place and phone number where you can be reached?
  • Reminded the sitter to limit personal phone calls and not allow visitors into the home?

Many hospitals, health care agencies, youth groups, community service groups and the American Red Cross provide classes for potential babysitters.

Consistent with the Fairfax County Child Supervision Guidelines, no child under 16 years old should be left alone overnight. It is recommended that overnight sitters be 18 years or older.

Fairfax County recommends children be at least 13 years old before babysitting.

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