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How to Fire a Caregiver

You love your son's caregiver, but you've decided to try full-time preschool. Or you're fed up with your babysitter's chronic lateness and want to hire a new one. Whatever the situation, firing a caregiver can be a difficult experience.

Show some consideration

If you're dismissing her for a reason unrelated to her performance, such as relocation, show your appreciation by writing a glowing letter of recommendation. If you're leaving group care, send it to those in charge; if the sitter works in your home, give it to her for potential future employers. Full-time sitters should be given plenty of notice  -- a month, if possible  -- along with a week or two of severance pay, and a gift. You might help your caregiver find another job by taking out a position-wanted ad in the newspaper or posting a sign in your local library.

Get tough, when necessary

What if you're firing your babysitter for poor performance? If it's a gray-area offense  -- she doesn't stimulate your baby enough or is difficult to get along with  -- you don't owe her more than a few days' notice. In fact, some experts recommend giving no notice, but a week's severance. "As soon as you inform her, she'll be looking for another job. You could be left high and dry," says Judith Lederman, the author of Searching for Mary Poppins.

If the sitter's behavior has been egregious  -- she showed up for work drunk, for example  -- "do not pass go," says Lederman. "She should be out that day." Ask for your keys back, give her whatever back pay you owe her  -- and make this meeting your last. Explain why you're firing her, but be calm and brief. If your child is in group care, register your complaint in writing to the licensing agency or owner  -- the center will be more likely to act on problems if there's a paper trail.

Shield your child

Whatever the reason for the dismissal, make sure to keep your child out of the room when you break the news. "People get upset when they're being fired," says Kathleen Candy, coauthor of The Childcare Sourcebook. "And it's disturbing for kids to see two people they love become angry with each other."

If you agree to let your sitter stay on for a few days, set some ground rules: Ask her not to complain to your child or to tell him she'll never see him again. You should, however, explain to your child that the caregiver will be leaving. Be as honest as you can without getting into a lot of detail, and make sure your child understands that whatever the situation might have been, the sitter's departure isn't his fault. You want those last few moments to be warm, not unsettling. And if you're lucky enough to part on a positive note, the relationship may not end at all  -- the caregiver may babysit or visit from time to time.