How To Find a Reliable Sitter
You wouldn’t walk up to a teenage girl at the mall, ask her to hold your purse and walk away, but trusting your children with a new babysitter can feel just like that. So how do you find a good sitter — someone you can trust?
Where To Look
Other parents are often great sources of sitters, if they’re willing to share! Be sure to ask for both positive and negative feedback.
Some churches, synagogues and neighborhood associations have lists of members who are available for babysitting. High school and college campuses often have newsletters or bulletin boards where you can post jobs. Many community newspapers offer domestic help wanted postings. Or consider organizing a co-op where parents take turns watching each other’s children for evenings out.
In our high-tech age, a convenient source of sitters is online referral agencies, such as Sittercity.com or Babysitters.com, which match parents with local sitters and provide feedback and other resources.
What To Pay
Babysitters.com CEO Michael Cravens says teenage sitters typically have less childcare experience and charge a lower hourly rate. “Parents with school-aged children can benefit by hiring a teenage sitter and save some money on the rate,” he says.
“Also, many teenage sitters have at least one parent that is just a phone call away if they run into a situation that requires some assistance,” Cravens adds. “Parents with infants and toddlers may want to get a sitter with more childcare experience, who is usually an adult sitter. The hourly rate can go up significantly, but the piece of mind … is usually worth it.”
Hourly rates can vary greatly, from $5 to $15 per hour. Remember, you often get what you pay for.
When you find suitable candidates, Genevieve Thiers, founder and CEO of Sittercity.com, says parents should set up an interview with at least three sitters.
“Have each spend an hour or two with the children while the parent is still at home,” she says. “It’s a great opportunity for the children to be a part of the selection process. After all, they will be spending the most time with the candidate that is selected.”
Thiers also urges parents to ask for and call each of the candidate’s references. Also expect a babysitter to have safety training. The Red Cross offers a six-hour Babysitter’s Training Course in many communities. Thiers values previous experience, but says look for energy and enthusiasm.
“An enthusiastic sitter won’t resort to sticking the kids in front of the TV or talking on the phone for a few hours while she gets into who-knows-what,” Thiers says. “She’ll be alert and creative on the job, which will keep your kids safe and entertained — what more could you ask for?”
Stephanie Vozza is a freelance writer.