5 Tips for Finding a Reliable Babysitter

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Deciding to leave your kids with a stranger isn't easy. Here's how to choose the right sitter at the right price.

This has been a bad week in babysitting news: A Cincinnati babysitter has been arrested after a 1-year-old boy was found dead in a closet, a Florida babysitter faces murder charges after police say he threw a  2-year-old girl against a wall, and a New Jersey mother is suing the babysitter who stood by as a man put her 1-year-old son inside a washing machine – and it turned on.

So it’s no surprise that an American Red Cross poll of more than 1,000 Americans found…

  • Nearly a third say they didn’t hire a sitter because they were concerned for their children’s safety.
  • More than half will stay at home because they can’t find a sitter.
  • Almost 70 percent agreed, “good babysitters are hard to find.”

But sometimes you have to hire a sitter. So here are some steps you can take to make the right choice…

1. Find the sitter

More than 80 percent of the parents in the Red Cross survey said they use an adult relative to sit, and more than half said they use an adult friend. But when you can’t rely on friends and family, you can turn to the Internet.

SitterCompare.com offers reviews of websites that help you find a babysitter. Here’s their take on the top three…

1. GreatAuPair.com

  • Babysitters are screened
  • Background checks available
  • Free trial
  • Membership: $60/month or $175/six months

2. GoNannies.com

  • Babysitters are screened
  • Background checks free
  • Free trial
  • Membership: $45/45 days or $79/90 days

3. Nannypro.com

  • Babysitters are screened
  • Background checks free
  • Free trial
  • Membership: $34.99/month or $49.98/two months or $59.96/four months

One warning: The “free trials” let you check for babysitters in your area by ZIP code, but you can do little else.

2. Qualify the sitter

Many people know the Red Cross offers CPR training and certification. Did you know they also offer babysitting training? (Hence the reason for the survey, it can be assumed.)

Another widely accepted certification comes from the International Nanny Association, a Massachusetts nonprofit that offers basic and expert-level certifications in childcare.

Besides training, here’s what the Red Cross survey also listed as key traits for a quality sitter…

  • Recommendations from other parents – 81 percent
  • Childcare training – 70 percent
  • CPR certification – 67 percent

Ask for all three, as well as any training courses completed.

3. Interview the potential sitter

Nothing beats a face-to-face interview. And a good sitter shouldn’t mind making the time. Here’s what to cover…

  • Ask for references – which you’ll check later.
  • Ask for certifications – those mentioned above and any others.
  • Ask about babysitting style – how they handle discipline, bedtime, television, supervision, etc.
  • Know what you want – A sitter who’s playful with your kid? Or one who will teach the child math? Make your expectations clear.
  • Ask questions – Do you know basic first aid? Have you sat for children with allergies or medical needs? Do you know how to help a choking child?

4. Try out the potential sitter

Sometimes it’s worth the money to hire a sitter even when you don’t need one. Invite the sitter over for a trial session. Stay home and watch. Sure the sitter will be on their best behavior, but you’ll still be able to notice if the sitter connects with your child. And while gut feelings are far from infallible, they’re a factor worth considering.

5. What to pay a babysitter

After you’ve chosen your sitter, it’s time to negotiate prices. According to the Red Cross…

  • 51 percent of babysitters are paid nothing – presumably friends or relatives
  • 24 percent are paid $6-10 an hour
  • 10 percent are paid $11-15 an hour
  • 8 percent are paid $1-5 an hour
  • 4 percent are paid $16-20 an hour
  • 3 percent are paid more than $20 an hour

Whatever they’re paid, the Red Cross survey acknowledges, “64 percent say babysitters work hard for the money they earn.” For more, check out one family’s story in How Much Should You Pay the Babysitter?

Stacy Johnson

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