A babysitting license is a certification, usually issued by a local government agency, that permits a person to care for other people's children for extended periods of time. In most places, a babysitting license is required only for people who run babysitting businesses or who regularly care for children from multiple families at once. Licenses usually are not required for more casual neighborhood babysitters. Many babysitters take training courses at local hospitals or community centers, but this is rarely seen as true licensing.
Babysitting license programs usually have a lot in common with childcare licensing programs. The main difference is that babysitters usually do not maintain childcare facilities — they often work either as low-rung employees of existing daycare centers, or they work out of a home. Licensing programs require babysitters to demonstrate management skills when handling multiple children at once, to understand child and infant safety and health and to know general first aid, among other things.
Local government entities are primarily responsible for implementing and overseeing babysitter license requirements. As such, the requirements can vary, sometimes quite dramatically, from place to place. Regional jurisdictions usually set the framework for when a babysitting license is required, and city or other local offices help implement the rules and provide training. Training almost always includes several days of instruction, often over the weekends; some hands-on demonstrations, particularly of life-saving health techniques; and a final written exam. There almost always is a fee involved, both for the course and for the exam.
The rules are different in different places with respect to who is required to hold a babysitting license, but it is almost always limited to adult professionals who regularly watch children as either a career or as regular part-time work. Babysitting jobs done for one family are almost always exempt, as are situations in which a babysitter watches his or her own children plus those of one other family. Licensing is geared more for commercial situations, not neighborhood arrangements.
Many teenage babysitters advertise themselves as licensed, which in most cases is a misnomer — what the majority of them mean to say is that they are certified. Community health clinics, hospitals and first-aid centers often offer babysitter courses for teenagers that help them get prepared to be in charge of young children. Babysitter training of this sort often includes basic first aid; care for infants, including changing diapers; and tips on how to be an effective and respected authority figure. Many teens use babysitter training and certification courses of this sort as steppingstone to becoming a babysitter.