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Childcare in the age of social media: What to know about regulations and Craigslist ads

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There are services through the state that can help you find proper and affordable childcare. But CBS21 found out that some parents are searching for sitters through sites like Facebook and Craigslist.

The sites can be great tools for finding a pet or to make some quick cash by selling old clothes on a yardsale site. But when it comes to finding someone to watch Johnny or Susie while you are at work, Craigslist and Facebook may not be the best option. Just scrolling through the jobs section of Craigslist and you'll find dozens of postings. The scary thing is, there is no section of this post that cites qualifications and certifications of childcare, yet some parents are taking these people up on their offer.

Mila Zimmerman is old enough to make mom some pretend lunch but at just two years old she's not old enough to stay home alone.

But mom Marissa needs to work and depends on the daycare services of a local woman who watches a number of children in her home.

Marissa's childcare provider is regulated.

"Parents really need to choose regulated childcare providers," explains Diane Barber, director of the Pennsylvania Child Care Association. "As opposed to someone who says, 'Ooh I can take care of your kid' or advertises on craigslist."

Barber says that anyone who provides care for three or more children must be licensed or certified by the Department of Health and Human Services.

Compass, a state maintained website, provides parents with a free portal of all local, regulated childcare options. Compass is great for low-income families.

Barber says that if a providers is regulated through the state they must meet certain standards.

"If they have outdoor play equipment, that the outdoor play equipment doesn’t have bolts and nuts – that’s it’s safe," explains Barber. "That there are fire alarms installed, that the water is not too hot."

The department will also visit regulated homes at least once a year to make sure they are staying in compliance and will check to make sure all employees have proper background checks to be around children.

"It could be a neighbor down the street and you have known this neighbor for 5-6 years," explains Barber. "But you don’t know who else is coming into that house... anybody that is in that house, they all have to have clearances."

Barber also cautions that neighborly relationships are not what they used to be.

"I think if we learned anything from the whole Jerry Sandusky case, we’ve learned and the legislature has learned. This is the bare minimum protection for children against child abuse."

Once you find a provider don't just sign up and walk away, keep the conversation going.

One mom, Amanda Szar, says that body language from her son was enough for her to make a change.

"He just crawled up into his car seat and started screaming 'no, don’t go' when I was leaving. He just looked scared when I took him."

Szar is transferring her son Cove to a new day care center, she says there was nothing wrong with where she was taking Cove it just wasn't the right fit for her family.

"We are getting what we pay for. It’s worth it to know that he is safe and happy and learning."

Of course, just because someone is posting on social media doesn't mean that they are not capable of watching your kids, just make sure you are asking the tough questions and getting references and a background check.

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