When parents leave their children with a babysitter, they must be able to trust the babysitter to look after their children's health and safety and to treat the children appropriately. Virginia does not require private babysitters to get licenses or to get certified in child care; thus, parents should consider a particular babysitter's qualifications and merits carefully before agreeing to allow her to watch their children.
Number of Children
Babysitters working out of Virginia homes must get a license to operate a day care center if they babysit more than six children at a time; a license allows the babysitter to babysit up to 12 children at a time. However, if a babysitter is only taking care of her own children, she can babysit as many as she wants without a license. In addition, private babysitters -- babysitters who go to other people's homes to take care of their children -- can take care of as many children at a time as they want as long as all the children live in the home the babysitter is visiting.
Age of Babysitter
There is no minimum age requirement to babysit in most of Virginia, as of June 2011. However, Babysitters For Hire says that Prince William County requires babysitters to be at least 12 years old before they can babysit children for four hours, and over the age of 13 to babysit for longer periods of time. Parents should use their judgment of a particular babysitter's abilities to determine whether he is old enough to babysit their children.
Babysitters do not have to take classes in Virginia, but they may do so if they wish. Babysitting classes teach sitters how to handle safety and discipline issues. For example, classes may teach students what to do if a child is choking or if he refuses to do as he is told. The American Red Cross provides such classes for babysitters who are interested in taking them.
It may be safer to place your children in the care of a day care provider, as these must be licensed -- as long as you feel comfortable with the center and know it meets your needs. If you choose to use a private sitter, get references and consider having the sitter take care of your children while you are there a couple of times so you can see how comfortable you feel with her.