One of the toughest aspects of parenting is definitely looking for trustworthy child care when moms and dads need a bit of time off to run an important errand or to simply try and find a brief window of much-needed time for themselves – to go on a date, to head to the gym, to have a coffee with a good friend, or simply sit on a park bench and enjoy a few kid-free hours. Experts do say that part of healthy parenting is to take some adult-time to be alone even for just a little while.
Whatever reason you may have for needing a babysitter, though, finding someone you can actually trust enough to leave your child with can prove to be a complicated and sometimes overwhelming process.
Complicated because parents naturally don’t easily entrust just anyone with their children. Overwhelming because there are just so many things to consider! In this day and age, one can never be too careful when it comes to choosing the right person to look after your child in your absence.
In this article, we break down the process of finding a babysitter from start to finish to give you a complete, comprehensive guide. The goal is to hopefully make things easier for you and get you well on your way to finding the perfect person to look after your most precious ones – your children.
Before we start, let’s first consider a couple of things.
You And Your Child’s Needs
Creating a quick checklist of what you and your child needs in a babysitter is an effective way to knock down what you’re not looking for. For example, if you have an infant less than 6 months old, you’ll most likely need a babysitter with a certificate in infant care and have prior experience in caring for small babies. A careful background check of their prior work experience may be needed should you have a small infant that needs tending to by a babysitter when the parent isn’t around.
If you have school-aged kids, you’ll want someone who’s game to play, make creative activities, know how to prepare healthy meals and is generally experienced in caring for that particular age group. In this instance, we recommend stocking up on crafts and activity booklets in advance.
If you need care for multiple children in different age groups – you may want to consider someone who’s had extensive experience in looking after more than 1 or 2 children at the same time. Some parents might need to drop off an older child at daycare while the babysitter will look after the younger ones at home.
Also, consider what you need. Are you looking for a babysitter to look after your child while you’re at work most of the day? Are you looking for someone to look after your child for just a specific time of the day? Do you need someone just for weekends? Think about what you need and what suits your time and schedule. This will make things easier for yourself and for your potential babysitter.
What’s Your Budget?
In 2019, the national average for hiring a babysitter was at $16.75 per hour for one child. However, it also varies per state. Some states have babysitter rates as low as less than $12 per hour while in some, can go up to around almost $19 per hour. Whatever the case may be, setting a realistic budget should help make it easier for you to make arrangements with your potential babysitter.
Where To Start Looking For A Good Babysitter
Now that we’ve set the groundwork and talked about two important points to consider when first choosing a babysitter, let’s talk about the first step:
Babysitter recommendations from family and friends
This is probably the easiest place to start. Asking friends or family for referrals is oftentimes the most effective way to find the perfect babysitter for your kids. “Sharing” babysitters are also a common practice among family members. Let’s say your sister’s 6-year-old has a regular babysitter who is also qualified to look after your 2-year-old; then that’s the perfect arrangement. Just have a look at the considerations we’ve discussed above: Is sitter qualified to look after your child? Is the sitter’s hourly (or daily/nightly) rate suitable for you?
Wait a moment, Mommy. Stop reading for a second, Daddy. Here’s a quick warning: Need a babysitter at a moment’s notice? If so, never make rash decisions and leave the care of your child with a neighbor or “friend” that you do not know well. Even family members who have no experience in babysitting should never be entrusted with your children. Nothing is more important than the safety of our little ones. If you cannot yet find anyone trustworthy at short notice – cancel that errand, rebook that appointment or reschedule date night. Stay with your children if you aren’t able to find someone at the last minute. Whatever it was that’s important for you to do, nothing is as important as the safety and security of your children.
Ask the staff at your daycare center
If you have an older child in daycare, you might want to ask the staff to see if there is anyone their roster (usually junior staffers or anyone employed on a part-time basis) that is reliable and is available to babysit. Get their contact details and then you can start from there.
Bulletin boards at youth centers, your local YMCA, your church, supermarket, or anywhere that attracts parents should show babysitter postings.
Aside from checking out current job posts, you can also post your own job ad there in the bulletin boards, too. Lots of parents find reliable babysitters from job board postings in places where you can oftentimes find parents coming and going. Always ensure that you interview them properly – if possible, always schedule a face-to-face interview.
Check job listings at your local high school, aged care centers, nursing schools or any facility where students may look for part-time babysitting jobs.
Some of the best babysitters are young, energetic students who are eager to earn, learn and include their babysitting experience in their resumes and college applications. An experienced babysitter is sure to get glowing recommendations from their employers and is an indication that they are hardworking and reliable. Have a look at the job boards and bulletin boards at the facilities indicated above and see what you can find. Again, other than a phone interview, it’s best to try and schedule a face-to-face interview.
Other possible ways to look for a babysitter:
- Referrals from your child’s pediatrician. Talk to the receptionist, they may be able to give you leads.
- Agencies that provide babysitting services.
- Babysitter websites and online job ads/postings. Facebook and even Craigslist can be a place to start but beware! Not everyone is who they say they are on social media. Perform a very careful and thorough background check with a candidate you find online.
Quick Tip for Pregnant Moms
If you’re pregnant and are looking into going back to work after your maternity leave, it’s best to try and find a sitter at least by the last trimester of your pregnancy so you’ll have potential candidates by the time you give birth. Allow your babysitter a few days a week (if possible) to stay with you at home so they will get used to the routine and also form a bond with your newborn baby. Where possible, don’t wait for a week before you’re due to return to work to find a babysitter as finding a good, reliable candidate takes time.
Screening Babysitter Applicants – Do’s And Don’ts, Qualities Of A Good Babysitter, And Performing Good Background Checks
We’re now ready for the next step. Now that you know where the best places are to find a babysitter, here’s what you need to do now:
Gather a shortlist of at least 5 candidates and get in contact with them.
Between housework and all the things that parents need to do, it may be difficult to sit down and call your candidates one by one. Where possible, recruit the help of a family member, your spouse or a good friend to assist you in calling.
All you need to do at the initial call is:
- Introduce yourself.
- Tell them where you found their application.
- Ask if they’re available for a face-to-face interview.
Once you have all that info, don’t feel pressured to schedule an interview immediately. Unless it’s urgent, always a schedule a time and day that’s suitable for you and your child.
An important thing to remember is to inform them to bring all the necessary documentation during your face-to-face interview such as their resume or CV, training certificates, and ID’s. If you’re happy for them to email these documents before the actual interview date, that’s fine too, but at least ask for a hard copy of their valid Driver’s License.
Where is the best place to conduct the interview?
Sometimes, a phone interview will suffice, especially if the candidate is highly recommended by a close friend or a family member. Otherwise, a face-to-face interview is highly encouraged.
If you’re comfortable with an at-home interview, that’s great. If possible, make sure your spouse or another family member is present so you can make the decision together.
A good idea is also to find a neutral, public place such as a coffee shop to conduct an interview.
Interviewing your babysitter is much like any other job interview. And like any good job interview, you must come prepared. As a family-friendly company, we always keep in mind that parents do not have all the free time in the world and it may be difficult to prepare interview questions what with the multitude of tasks that needs to be done on a day-to-day basis. Also, if you’re not aware of the current going rate for babysitters in your local area, you can search on babysitting websites or ask other parents. It’s best to have a figure in mind during the interview.
To make things a bit easier, here’s a list of basic questions for you to remember:
- After the usual introductions and how-do-you-do’s, to break the ice, start with “getting to know you” questions like “Tell me about yourself”, “What are you currently up to right now?”.
- Ask about their recent babysitting experience and have them explain this in great detail.
- Ask about a challenging situation when babysitting and how they handled it.
- Ask a what-if scenario like “What if there is a medical emergency at home and you’re unable to contact me, what will you do?”
- Ask about a medical-related scenario like “What if you notice my child running a fever, what would you do first?”
- Ask them what they like to do outside of work / during their free time.
- Ask them what they love about babysitting.
- Ask them about any medical/first-aid experience such as CPR, Heimlich maneuver, etc. If they do not have this experience, then it’s probably best to choose a candidate that at least knows basic first aid.
- Review their documents and ID’s to ensure authenticity. If possible, ask for at least a copy of their valid Driver’s License.
- Before concluding the interview, ask about rates and how much they are looking to earn.
- Thank them for their time and let them know you will contact them as soon as possible.
While you may experience a really great interview with let’s say, your first 2 candidates, and you may be tempted to hire a candidate right away, try not to make a decision until you have interviewed all of the candidates in your shortlist.
After the interview, you can then decide upon your best candidates. Try to narrow it down to 2 or 3.
Just like any good recruitment etiquette, take the time to call the applicants that you’ve decided not to hire at this time. A quick text, phone call or email would really help set expectations. Also, it’s best to keep good relations with other possible “back-up” candidates should your current sitter be unable to come to work for any reason then you have a pool of possible replacements to call.
The next thing to do would be to start doing a careful background check on your potential candidates. Here are some easy, yet effective, background checks you can do:
- Call character references found in the resume. Some parents might find this step tedious and unnecessary but we encourage you to take the time to do it. It is worth it and you’ll learn new things about your candidate from someone who knows them personally. You can ask help from your spouse, friend or family member to help with this process.
- Call 1 or 2 companies or families they have worked for. Again, some parents may skip this part but it does prove to be worth it to find out what the candidate was like during their past employment.
- Search the internet for websites that check the validity of their driver’s license. We suggest typing the following search phrase on Google or your preferred search engine: “free criminal record check”.
- You can also search the internet for a free website to check if the candidate has a criminal record.
- Social media check – current recruitment trends now require applicants to include their social media accounts (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) in their resumes. It’s not at all unusual for you to ask for one of their social media accounts. We do discourage for you to “stalk” a candidate. It’s always best to ask for their permission for you to view their Facebook or other social media
How To Know When You’ve Found The Right Babysitter
Aside from going with your gut and following your instincts (which are two really important things, by the way), here is a quick checklist of qualities that you would want in a good babysitter:
The most important thing to consider is your candidate passes all the background checks: glowing references and feedback from former employers, no criminal record, ID checks are good & valid.
Other important qualities to consider:
- Good experience in caring for children same age as yours
- Has basic first aid training
- Knows what to do during emergencies
- Great attitude and generally patient around kids
- Creative and fun – makes great games/activities for school-aged children,
- Someone you can get along with
- Suits your schedule and budget
If you find that your candidate possesses all of the above (and more!), then you know you’ve found a great one.
It may seem like the above sounds too perfect or too good to be true but trust us, you will find someone with all of the above or at least has half of the qualities mentioned. It will take some time but it will be worth it.
Sealing The Deal
After following through with the above, you (and your spouse or anyone who needs to make the decision with you), we’re sure that you’re able to determine who you’re looking to hire.
This last step should be easy:
- Call the applicant, tell them the good news.
- While you may need the babysitter to start ASAP, it’s best to give them at least 2 to 3 days to prepare before coming in for work.
And there you have it, you now have a great babysitter ready to care for your children. Congratulations!
However, there are a few more things that you would want to consider. Here we discuss some important points such as feedback from your child, if you need to draw up a contract, and other related concerns:
Remember to follow up with your child.
A few days into the babysitter coming in for work (we suggest within 24 to 48 hours), you would want to ask your child to see how things are going for them and if they feel comfortable with the new babysitter. Even when you have a young baby or a toddler and they aren’t able to verbally confirm their feelings, you can still tell if the baby is comfortable or not. They may be extra fussy or just not acting like their “usual self” around the sitter. No need to panic, though, moms and dads. They may just be adjusting and not used to their new caretaker. Give the new sitter and your child some time to adjust and see how it goes. At the end of the day, children know what’s best for them. Young as they are, follow their cues. You have a shortlist of other candidates if the first one doesn’t work out.
You can set a “probationary period” with your babysitter.
If you’re looking to hire long-term and not just for date night or a dental appointment, you might want to consider a period for observing and see how things go. A good time would be anywhere from 14 days to a month. That would usually be enough time for you to decide if you want to keep the babysitter on. Just make sure that you agree to this with your candidate prior to hiring them.
Setting up a contract.
Unless you are getting a direct family member to look after your child, we’d recommend for you to set up some sort of contract or agreement that details everything that you have agreed on. If possible, both parties (yourself and the babysitter) should sign in the presence of at least one witness. A contract can prove to be useful as it makes it clear what the duties and responsibilities of your sitter are, how much they are paid and if you are both happy, you can renew the contract after a certain period of time (6 months up to 1 year or whatever suits you best) with the possibility of a raise (if you’re happy to offer that).
If you’re unsure how to compose a contract, you can easily find templates online that you can edit, print and sign. Again, setting up a contract depends on the scenario. If you need a sitter only for a day or two, then it’s not necessary. If you’re hiring only for a short-term basis, a good idea would be to maybe just write down everything in an email so that at least you’ll have written documentation of what you have agreed to.
Setting up taxes for your sitter.
This would be appropriate in the cases of full-time nannies. Kinacle is in no position to offer tax advice as this varies for every state and depends on your babysitter’s income and working hours. It’s best to check in with your local tax agency to see what works best for you.
Frequently Asked Questions
How old should a babysitter be?
Generally, in most states, a babysitter should be no younger than 13-years-old. This means that, yes, if you’re happy to do so, an eighth-grader is usually legally allowed to look after children.
However, it’s best to verify with your state laws to see if this is the case in your local area. We would still recommend for you to keep in mind that a 13-year-old would normally not be as reliable as someone who is older and more qualified. However, we do have great success stories of parents having young students look after their school-aged kids. As long as it suits you and you’re happy with it, that’s the most important thing.
Can I hire a male babysitter?
Everyone pictures a babysitter that’s usually a young, high-school student or an older, more experienced nanny who can bake cookies and is wonderful with small babies, however, some families hire male babysitters, especially if the child is also male. Male babysitters are often just as capable to look after children and there are even cases where this may be best.
Usually, boys who need specialized care can be left in the care of a male caregiver such as a physical therapist, occupational therapist, special needs therapist or a sports coach to improve certain sensory disorders or to have them maybe improve on certain athletic skills such as basketball, baseball, tennis, etc. Bottom line is, while females dominate the babysitter industry, males are as capable of providing childcare especially in highly specialized situations.
How do I ensure that the babysitter follows through with what my child needs?
Always create checklists of do’s and don’ts of what the babysitter should and shouldn’t do. This will ensure that your child is cared for in the same manner as if you’re at home caring for them, too. This is most especially true if your child is taking regular medication/supplements, or is under a special diet.
Does insurance cover my babysitter?
Kinacle is not in the position to provide insurance advice. Talk to your home insurance provider to see if they offer coverage to employees working in your home. In the same sense as setting up taxes, this would be best to look into if you’re hiring a full-time babysitter. But still, if you have a regular babysitter that comes in and looks after your children, it would be worth looking at, as well.
To conclude this article, one final tip we’d like to share is to try and keep an open mind. We know lots of parents who learn new parenting tips and tricks from their babysitter. Since they spend a lot of time around your children, they may pick up on a few things that parents or primary caregivers might miss out on. Babysitters may also find “hacks” or certain unique ways to deal with tantrums or even discover a new game that your child unexpectedly enjoys.
One thing is for sure, reliable babysitters can be part of the fabric of the beautiful cloth you weave for your family. Oftentimes, what was a perfect stranger whom you hired not too long ago will one day become a valuable and well-loved member of your family.
If you have any questions or have any feedback about this blog, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us. We’re happy to have a chat.