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What to Look for in a Baby-Sitter

August 20, 1993|LESLIE BERGER

Here are a few issues to consider about candidates for a sitter:

* Experience, particularly with infants (or your child's age group).

* Reasons for leaving their present position and what they liked/disliked about that job and others.

* Problems with past employers.

* Children of their own whose needs might conflict with yours. Can they be flexible if you get stuck at the office or in traffic?

* Capacity for handling emergencies, such as illness, injuries or earthquakes.

* Future plans: How long a commitment could they give you?

* Your instincts: Are you comfortable with the person?

I couldn't resist throwing in a couple of trick questions like, "What do you like to watch on TV?" (For me, the ideal answer was, "I hate TV!" News programs were acceptable, soap operas out of the question.)

To check someone's driving record, get the appropriate request form from your local Department of Motor Vehicles office and mail to the DMV's Office of Information Services, P.O. Box 944231, Sacramento, CA 94244-0231.

Knowing the person's birth date, license plate number, full name and address will speed the search, which costs $5 and takes 10 days for a reply. The DMV will give the person a chance to object, so it's a good idea to get cooperation in advance.

To check for possible convictions--at least locally--go to the Los Angeles Criminal Courts Building at Spring and Temple streets downtown (or your local courthouse if outside Los Angeles County). You want to see the indexes in both Municipal and Superior Court to check for misdemeanors and felonies. A clerk can direct you to the index and show you how to use it.

Though currently not available to the general public, a vetting service is in the works which, for a fee, would check a prospective baby-sitter's fingerprints against California Department of Justice records. Proponents of the service, dubbed Trustline, say it would tap into information otherwise unavailable to the public, such as aliases, criminal convictions statewide and unprosecuted child-abuse charges. Because of privacy laws, the job applicant voluntarily applies for placement on a state register of baby-sitters. If cleared, she receives a Justice Department letter she can show her would-be employer.

Finally, remember that most baby-sitters don't have ulterior motives; they're just people looking for work. As laden with conflicting emotion as the search process is, try not to come across as too petty or suspicious. Treating your sitter with respect can only benefit your child.

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