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 or, which match parents with local sitters and provide feedback and other resources.

The Interview

Here are some questions that suggests you ask each candidate.

• What is it that you like about babysitting?

• What do you look for in an employer/family?

• What is your hourly rate?

• Have you ever been arrested or convicted of a felony?

• Are you okay if a job runs later than planned?

• How soon will you let us know if you can’t do a job?

• Do you know First Aid and CPR?

• Tell me about a time where you faced a crisis on the job. How did you handle it?

• What would you do with the kids on a day like today?

• What do you do when a child refuses to go to sleep?

• What do you think is the best way to handle tantrums?

• What kinds of discipline have you implemented in the past?

What To Pay 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.

Getting Started

When you find suitable candidates, Genevieve Thiers, founder and CEO of, 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?”

Check Point

How can you evaluate your sitter? offers this three-step monitoring system:

1. Assess the match. As soon as your sitter enters your home, pay
attention to her relationship with your children. With a child too young to talk, look for nonverbal cues. If he is excited and all smiles, she’s doing a great job. Also familiarize yourself with warning signs that can indicate mistreatment, such as your child becoming excessively clingy or
aggressive, loss of appetite or recurring nightmares.

2. Communicate. Touch base with the sitter for a quick five minutes
after each job. Ask her job-specific questions such as, “How was my child today?” and “Were there any problems today?” Also, talk to your child, asking open-ended questions such as “What was the favorite part of your day?” and “Did anything make you sad or worry you today?” An additional 15-minute call with your sitter each month when you’re both relaxed and prepared is a good idea too.

3. Observe. Drop by home unannounced to see the sitter in action. You can also ask your neighbor to keep and eye and an ear open while you’re gone. Or set up your own nanny cam in the house.

Stephanie Vozza is a freelance writer.

Categories: Care