Every now and then you might need to find a babysitter for your kids. Maybe you have a date night planned or just need to run a few errands without kids. Finding a babysitter doesn’t need to be stressful. Here are some helpful tips so you can find the right babysitter for your kids.
Ask your Friends: The best place to find a babysitter is by asking your friends. Maybe they have an older daughter that babysits or maybe they have a great babysitter they use themselves. Having someone you know and trust is important.
Nextdoor.com: Check on nextdoor.com (a neighborhood website). There are tons of babysitters that neighbors have used and they will probably live by you, which is very nice.
Ask other Plano Moms: Check out PlanoMoms talk for referrals or ideas on the right babysitter. It will be good to make a list of their names and numbers that they suggest.
Care.com: Care.com is a site designed to help you find the best caregiver in your area. They offer many services including nannies, babysitting, and even in-home care for children.
Ask Teachers: If you have a child in pre-school or even elementary school it doesn’t hurt to ask if they babysit. I know so many teachers that babysit in evenings and weekends for extra money.
Once you get a list of names, start a running list of questions you will want to ask. Sittercity has a great checklist to help you get started with some essential questions. I also suggest having the person out to your home to meet your kids and see if it will be a good fit for your family.
A babysitter is one of the most important resources you can have as a parent. If you are a new parent and the fog has cleared from those first 6 or 10 weeks, you may find yourself ready to get back out into the real world and then realize you can’t go too far without a trustworthy babysitter. If you are a parent with two or three children, you already know good babysitters are hard to find and they stay pretty busy. I am sure you have all had last minute plans and had to do the “call blitz” to every sitter you know and still came up short.
As you look for a babysitter, you need to consider several things before you hire one. First, what level of trust do you have with people other than family members to care for your child? Also, how much of the legwork do you want to do when finding and screening a babysitter? Third, what are your expectations for care while you are gone? Lastly, how much do you want to pay for your babysitter?
I remember the first time I had a babysitter come over to my house when my daughter was 2 months old. Owning a nanny agency comes in handy at times like these, but as a new parent, I naturally had a bit of anxiety about leaving my new baby. However, since I knew firsthand about our screening process, I felt confident leaving my newborn with the babysitter who came over that first time and the many others who have come in the last 12 years.
Each person’s comfort level is different and personal. While some people need to know the babysitter and her family, others may only need to know a family that she has worked for in the past. Many others only feel comfortable with an agency that interviews and screens each sitter. Feeling secure depends on each family, and this factor plays a significant part in narrowing down whether you will go with a word of mouth babysitter or an agency.
If you are trying to find a babysitter on your own, ask your friends and neighbors first. If you are part of a church community, that is a great place to find reliable babysitters. What I would not recommend is an online listing site or an ad placed in the newspaper or on craigslist because the screening is minimal, if there is any at all. Most online listing sites do not check references and do not require a background check. Anyone can sign up to be a babysitter on an online listing site in about 10 minutes! If you don’t have a sitter who has been referred through word of mouth, I would recommend using an agency because of the rigorous screening and the important step of an in-person interview. It is also important to consider the fact that the sitters who go through an agency are willing to invest time and energy on a lengthy application and interview process. Their willingness to go through a serious screening process demonstrates their commitment as caregivers.
Also make sure that any agency you use is a member of both the International Nanny Association (www.nanny.org) and more importantly, The Association of Premier Nanny Agencies (www.theapna.org) which enforces standards of professional industry practices.
Regardless of whether you use an agency babysitter or not, it is important to make sure that they are adequately screened. Agencies provide valuable standards that would be beneficial for families to use as guidelines. For example, besides meeting babysitters in person for a screening interview, they also require: a minimum age for their babysitters, usually (18 or 20 years old); experience with children (at least 3 solid childcare references); a current CPR and First Aid certification; a valid driver’s license and reliable vehicle; eligibility to work in the United States, and most importantly, a criminal background check. In addition to that, most agencies require a training course that highlights the basics of babysitting along with agency policies.
Before you make your reference calls, write out 5-7 questions. Make sure your questions are open-ended like, “What are some words you would use to describe ‘Susie’ when she is with your children?” “What is one area she could improve in?” Also, make sure to ask if they would they hire that sitter again.
Make sure you ALWAYS do a criminal background check even if you use a babysitter that is a friend of the family or a friend of a friend. Commit to making that a family policy. You can kindly say to people, “We decided as a family that anyone who works with our children must have a criminal background check run. We don’t make any exceptions.”
I recommend PFC Information Services, http://www.pfcinformation.com Owner, Lynn Peterson is well regarded in her field and does an excellent job of all criminal background checks. It is possible for you to do all of this “legwork”, or with one call to an agency, you have hundreds of pre-screened babysitters at your disposal.
The expectations you have for your babysitter can help determine how you choose your sitter. You need to think through what you expect your babysitter to do while you are gone and also make sure they know what is expected of them.
A young neighborhood babysitter can seem like a great choice. However, they often lack experience and cannot handle a true emergency. Additionally, I’ve often heard parents complain that their teenage babysitter tends to play less with the kids and spend more time on their phone. A mature (20+), experienced babysitter can feed, bathe and put your children to bed, while a teenager may provide companionship as your child watches a movie and ensures that your child does not harm themselves. For younger sitters, you can provide a list of activities that they may choose from. For example, the list can include, reading, coloring, karaoke, board games, etc. and tell them you would like for them to do 3-4 activities from the list.
Most agency babysitters have completed either some child educational classes or are currently in a child related field of study, and most agencies require their babysitters to be interactive. In addition to meeting your children’s basic needs, they will read books, make crafts and play inside/outside games with your children, and will completely avoid watching television. Most agencies also require a daily log so that you can see what your children ate when they slept and what they did while you were away.
When determining exactly how much to pay your babysitter, you should consider three things: their experience; their education and the job duties you require. If you are going to use a neighborhood babysitter who is in junior high or high school who has limited experience and your expectations for the job is to simply watch the kids, you can pay the babysitter on the lowest end of the spectrum which is about $8-10/hour.
A more experienced nanny that has finished high school and has attended some college or is a college graduate comes at a higher cost but is certainly worth the extra money. If she has 5+ years of experience and is actually engaging your children in educational activities, cooking meals, bathing, etc. you should pay no less than $13/hour but as much as $18/hour. Also, consider tipping when you have a good experience with an experienced babysitter.
Kim Winblood is the Owner and VP/Chief Operating Officer of the Dallas/Fort Worth Mom’s Best Friend Agency. Kim received her bachelor’s degree from Texas A&M University and then went on to achieve her master’s degree at Dallas Theological Seminary. Kim worked her way through graduate school as a nanny manager and subsequently worked as a teacher in the Dallas area for seven years where she taught Health and coached soccer.