One of the toughest challenges parents face is finding the perfect babysitter. Unless you are blessed to have friends or relatives that are local, you must search for a sitter. You can go the time consuming, antiquated, and unreliable route of posting flyers at coffee shops, daycare centers, or college dorms. Or, you can get a sitter by word of mouth from your neighbor.
The better route: enter the modern age and search for your sitter online with the latest screening methods, background checks, and review systems. And you won’t just find a sitter, there will be numerous sitters within your area. Here at Bestofnj.com, we sat down with two of the leading sites, www.sittercity.com and www.care.com, to learn more about babysitting services and how to find the perfect sitter.
Sheila Lirio Marcelo was a mother with two small children and had to care for her parents. She found it a challenge to find care solutions. Marcelo knew there were other families searching for quality care like her. So in 2007, she launched www.care.com. Today she is the Chairwoman, Founder, and CEO of the website that reaches 16 countries and has over 13 million members.
According to Jacalyn Lee, Public Relations Director, Care.com offers services for families and caregivers to find, manage, and pay for care or find employment. Members have access to safety tools and resources, including background checks, message monitoring, and hiring tips. They can pay sitters online or with a mobile app. Care.com HomePay takes care of payroll and tax services. Through Global Workplace Solutions, Care.com can create custom packages for employers that handle senior care, child care, and back-up care. Other parts of Care.com include Citrus Lane, a commerce site just for moms, and Big Tent, a community platform for moms.
According to Katie Bugbee, Senior Managing Editor at Care.com, global parenting expert, and mom of three, the website is for families looking for caregivers, whether that is child care, senior care, pet care, housekeepers, even tutors. “Leaving a child with someone new for the first time is always stressful. You are not alone. That is the first thing to know. It is a very normal feeling and you are not overreacting. But you have to put things in place.”
Bugbee suggests starting with the creation of a job post. The title should be something very specific. In the job post, you describe the quality of the person you want, required certifications, personality traits. Perhaps you want someone to challenge the kids with fun activities like messy crafts. You should list responsibilities, such as preparing dinner, putting a fussy toddler to bed, bathtime, debating vegetables. The calculator on Care.com will help you determine the going rate in your area. The job post will then go out to the caregivers on the site. You then wait for responses. The site is free until someone responds and you want to connect with them. At this point, you have to commit to a subscription, with plans ranging from one month to a year.
So you have found a babysitter, nanny, special needs caregiver, what comes next? According to Bugbee, you should interview the candidate, check out their references, and run a background check. The background check should be the final stage before you have a new person come to your home. “For the initial visit, you can have the caregiver over while you are there. They can interact with your child, perhaps play with them while you are working at the computer or making dinner. You have an open ear to what is going on. Maybe the next visit you leave for a time you are comfortable with, perhaps to run an errand, or while you and your partner have dinner down the street. You gradually build up trust.”
Most important of all, Bugbee says to always trust your gut instinct. Do not be rushed if something is telling you this might not be the best person—give yourself more time. You want someone who will offer clear communication. When checking references, don’t stop at one—you can call a few, even ask for additional ones. People tend to list references that will give glowing reviews. Perhaps speak with a college professor, high school coach, a neighbor. You will get a sense of them as a person and not just a caregiver. You need to be certain that the candidate is mature, responsible, and dependable.
The caregiver you select should be versatile to meet today’s parenting needs. According to Bugbee, parents are using everything at their disposal for raising children, including the latest high-tech gadgets like GPS-enabled trackers, baby wearables, and night vision-enabled video cameras. When the gadgets can’t help, parents are beginning to seek support to address specific caregiving needs, such as babysitters who know how to deal with food allergies or encourage healthy eating. Perhaps they want their child to learn a language, so they hire a multilingual nanny to give their child a competitive edge. There also is an increasing number of families who require care for a grandparent and a child under the same roof.
To learn more about Care.com and how they can help your family, visit them online.
Genevieve Thiers was a student at Boston University. She was working her way through school sitting for familiesl; and she would get her leads for sitting from flyers distributed by families. She thought there had to be a better way for parents to connect with sitters. Thiers had lots of sitting jobs coming in and distributed them to other sitters. Hence, the birth of www.sittercity.com, the first online sitting service. Founder Thiers started in Boston and gradually went city by city. Now, 14 years later, Sittercity has sitters in every city across the country.
“Sittercity has the industry’s top sitters and nannies. We also offer pet care, and companion or senior care. Every 3 seconds we connect a family with a caregiver. 4,000 sitters join our site every day. Every 2 minutes, a parent posts a job on Sittercity,” says Sittercity Executive Vice President Melissa Marchwick.
According to Marchwick, Sittercity has tools and resources to help parents in their search for care. They offer safety steps to help parents select the right caregiver. Families can start by screening possible sitters. You can review caregiver profiles, read parent reviews, and run basic background checks. The next step is to interview your top sitter picks. You can start with brief phone interviews.
Once you have candidates narrowed down, you can meet them face to face for more questions. See how your children react to the new sitters, as well. After the interviews, check references, search their names on the web, and run more comprehensive background checks. Now it is time to closely monitor the relationship between the sitter and your children. Ask your children questions, and watch for any changes in behavior. You also can have your neighbor keep watch, perhaps come home unannounced, or even install a nanny cam.
Sittercity also can help families to determine how much to pay the sitter with their rate calculator. In additional to regional rates, they say not to forget other factors. One, realize that nannies and sitters are not the same, and have different rates. Two, you will have to pay more money for more children. Three, experienced sitters and nannies will expect higher wages.
Four, expect to pay more to receive additional services, such as preparing dinner, cleaning, homework help, and getting the kids to or from school. Five, consider the amount of travel time it takes the sitter to reach your home. Six, be prepared to offer raises for a sitter that matches well with your children. Finally, for special occasions like Valentine’s Day or New Year’s Eve, be ready to pay the sitter a top rate. Sittercity also has their cheat sheet for parents, which is an interview checklist. You can print out the PDF for every new sitter.
According to Marchwick, the best way for parents to connect with sitters or nannies on Sittercity is through the job post process. There are subscription fees that are $35.00 a month, $70.00 for three months, or $140.00 for the entire year. Sittercity also offers a new service called Date Night Now, which now is available in New York and Chicago. Marchwick says that this on-demand sitter service will be expanding to other cities in the upcoming year. “This service has a more vetted group of sitters. You can book the sitter online, and pay online. We also offer the Sittercity app.”
Marchwick mentioned some additional perks of Sittercity. It is a free service for military families to use. Employers can use their SelectPlus to offer child and elder care employer benefits for scheduled as well as back-up care needs. And Sittercity has joined a partnership with the American Red Cross to offer its sitters access to their Advanced Child Training Course, which includes safety in the home, as well as Infant/Child First Aid, CPR, and AED. For more information on Sittercity, visit them online.