RENO, Nev. - The horror stories are all too real for many families across the nation. Parents coming home to find their child murdered by the person parents trusted to keep their kids safe.
The fear of putting children in harms way keeps many parents home rather then take a night off.
But even the most protective parents need a break. Maybe enjoy a movie or dinner with their significant other.
So when Fallon Honeycutt needed to find a sitter for her two little girls, she was fortunate enough to find Justie Waugamen just across the street.
"I know her brother, so I talked to him quite a bit about how old is she, has she ever babysat before."
Honeycutt says when her two girls met Justie for the first time, there was an immediate connection. But Honeycutt says even though she knew her kids were happy, it was still hard leaving them alone for the first time.
"You always worry," she said. "There's so many worries you have to worry about. You can't even think of them all."
But a few stuck out in her mind.
"That they'll go off and do errands and leave the kids," Honeycutt said. "Or have a boy over, that's a big one. Or strangers coming over and interfering with my kids."
Fortunately Waugamen is the ideal babysitter since she only has one thing on her mind.
"Play," Waugamen said. "That's all I want to do is play. It's okay to get on your knees and pretend and use your imagination and have fun."
But not all parents are as lucky as Honeycutt. Crystal Becerra, a community educator at the Northern Nevada Red Cross says though your babysitter may not be abusing your kids, they still could be neglecting them.
"I think a lot of parents should have that expectation of creative play time that don't involve parking them in front of a television, or computer, or video games," Becerra said.
Becerra teaches a babysitting course at the Red Cross about once a month. The class is designed to give first time sitters the skills they need to properly care for kids. The day long course is offered to teens between 12 and 15-years-old.
But finding a good babysitter is easier said than done. You can often advertise for sitters during a Red Cross class, but anyone you find there may not have the experience you're looking for. But they will have one thing many babysitters lack.
"We give them basic First Aid and CPR training," Becerra said.
If you're new to an area, you can search websites like SitterCity.com or Care.com. Babysitting sites like these will offer background checks, but Becerra says always meet a potential sitter in person.
Becerra suggests setting up a meeting and bringing your kids. How they react around the sitter may be a good indicator as to how well your sitter will work out.
"Kids always have the best judgment of character," she said. "So if they don't immediately gravitate towards that person I know it's not going to work out."
But even a good first impression may not mean the sitter will work out. If you're concerned your sitter might not be doing his or her job, take a look at your child's behavior when you get home.
"A child that is happy and relaxed and even maybe a little sad to see the sitter go, that's a sign they did their job well," Becerra said. "Crying children, maybe tightly held up, not wanting to touch anybody, that sort of thing I would be very concerned about."
You can also take a more extreme step and set up nanny cams in your home. The cameras are legal in all 50 states, and have led to the arrest of countless babysitters abusing the children they were suppose to protect. You can buy cameras that are covertly hidden in alarm clocks or wall outlets. You can find them on-line or in many hardware stores. Just know, though legal in Nevada, you need a camera that won't record audio. Otherwise, you will be in danger of breaking the state's wiretapping laws.
Some argue the cameras are an invasion of the sitter's privacy, and you should tell the babysitters you have them. But Waugamen disagrees.
" I'd probably not want them to tell me," she said. "Just so they can watch me and say oh wow she actually takes care of our kids."
Some signs that will tell you you have a good sitter on your hands include:
*Your children are well-rested and in a good mood the next day.
*Your kids are clean.
*The house is as tidy as you left it.
*You sitter is not glued to a laptop or phone.
Your child is excited about the sitter coming back.
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