School may be out for the summer, but many parents in New Jersey and across the country do not have the luxury of taking a couple months off while their children are home. While some send their youngsters to summer camp, others opt for a babysitter. However, finding a good, responsible person to look after your children is not always easy.

Tips for parents looking for babysitters this summer. (Dennis Tokarzewski, ThinkStock)

Where does a parent start when looking for a babysitter? Safesitter.org recommends the following:

  • Be selective. Allow yourself adequate lead time and start the search early enough to allow time for a personal interview;
  • Look for a babysitter within your circle of friends or community; and
  • Always screen possible sitters by a phone interview and follow up on likely sitters by checking references.

"Almost every parent has experienced the stress of finding a sitter and preparation is the key to success. If you wait for the last minute, then you find you're desperate for someone to watch your kids and the first sitter available may not be the best one," said Jennifer Seward, director of marketing communications with safesitter.org. "Start your search early enough so that you have enough time to interview your top candidates."

There are many babysitter preparation courses available and choosing a person who has taken such a class is a good idea. If there are no such courses available in your area, it is okay to suggest that your babysitter take a first aid or CPR class to learn what to do in the event of choking or some other type of emergency.

It is also recommended that parents interview a potential babysitter and ask about the following:

  • If over the phone, present basic facts including the number and ages of your children, your address, any special issues, pets, transportation, etc.;
  • Ask the sitter's age and babysitting experience with children the same age as your child;
  • Ask the sitter about training in the rescue of a choking infant and child;
  • Go over expectations stressing that your first priority is to keep your child safe and entertained. Go over restrictions; and
  • Ask the sitter about his/her fee

"We also recommend that a parent not choose a younger babysitter if they have infants.  A babysitter should have at least two years experience caring for younger children or older babies before they try to tackle the job of taking care of babies who are 6 months or younger because that is a really big job," Seward said. "You want a sitter who likes children, has the attention span to actively watch and entertain your child and has the patience to handle difficult behavior."