Babysitter Business
February 17, 2014 6:30 AM   Subscribe

My wife and I always have trouble finding a babysitter. Our friends have the same problem. This problem came up at a party last night. Our solution to the problem was a website / app that allowed parents to search for babysitters. There are plenty of services that do this already, but we all agreed that none of the services were solving the 'trust' problem. We felt that none of the existing services were local enough, e.g. tied to our local community / social circles. As a parent, what would this service need to do to put you at ease? Do the babysitters need to be vetted, and if so, how? Referrals? Reviews? Video interviews? Personality tests? What would you need to know to trust a babysitter with your kids?
posted by jasondigitized to Human Relations (16 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Do the babysitters need to be vetted, and if so, how?

In the UK there's a background check formerly (and still colloquially) known as a "CRB check" that adults working with kids have to have. I would want that, plus some childcare qualification, plus first aid training/qualification. Basically everything that a nursery worker/school teacher would need to get their job (minus the teaching qualification). And I would want the organisation referring them to do some serious verification of those qualifications.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 6:44 AM on February 17, 2014

I would never hire a sitter unless I met them and had a meaningful connection (more than being fellow users on an app.)
posted by michaelh at 6:45 AM on February 17, 2014 [2 favorites] does background/criminal checks and the sitters are local people that you can talk to/interview/get references from before you use them. We've used them several times. We interviewed the sitters and talked to their references, as well as making sure they passed the checks. Everything was fine; most of them were college kids trying to make some extra cash.

If that is still too "distant" for you to feel safe, you would probably need to stick to recruiting among family/friends and/or do a babysitting swap. I don't think even the most advanced app is going to keep anyone from freaking out about the possibility that a sitter could be abusive or neglectful or somehow get past your filters.

When I was a teenager, I made good money babysitting, but for whatever reason we never seem to be part of a social group that has those kinds of kids around, so we had to improvise.
posted by emjaybee at 6:45 AM on February 17, 2014

Best answer: There is a conundrum here. One of the best solutions to the trust problem is a recommendation from someone you trust. Or more weakly, a recommendation from someone who you can verify as a real person a bit like you. The problem is that people don't want to share their babysitters only to find that when they do need them someone has booked them up.

There are two ways round this:

1) Creating a babysitting pool (1). In effect nobody pays anything. In order to be in the pool you must commit time. Public holidays are worth x points, weekends are worth y points, weekdays z points etc. The idea is that your pool is hyperlocal, and therefore you vet other members of the pool by actually going round to their house and meeting them.

2) Creating a babysitting pool (2). You share the responsibility of vetting babysitters and 'supplying' babysitters. You can each draw from the pool, either on a first comes first serve basis or or another system. Again, you solve the issue here by being hyperlocal and/or networked. You don't get to be in the pool unless a trusted member allows you in. They then assume the responsibility of initially vetting babysitters who are open to the pool although each parent can also vet when they book someone.
posted by MuffinMan at 6:47 AM on February 17, 2014 [5 favorites]

I used to find someone to watch Baby Tafetta when I went back to work after maternity leave. The process was very easy and they did a good job of vetting people. I narrowed it down to two people and interviewed before making my final decision. I was very pleased with the whole process.

Now that the kiddos are older, I get referrals from daycare, friends and neighbors. Most of all, though, I trust my gut. I can tell pretty quickly if someone isn't going to be up to the task.
posted by tafetta, darling! at 6:52 AM on February 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

Back when we needed babysitters we hired the teenage children of people we knew well. Likewise, I've noticed that almost all my daughter's babysitting gigs are friends of ours with younger kids. I think you can extend that web of trust out one level max. I'd be comfortable hiring a babysitter that was strongly recommended by somebody I trust. I don't think we would have ever hired a "stranger," no matter how well vetted they may have been by or whatever, even after an interview.
posted by COD at 7:01 AM on February 17, 2014 [4 favorites]

The kids have to be comfortable with them too - which in practice tends to mean someone they already know.
posted by Segundus at 7:13 AM on February 17, 2014

When I was a kid and I wanted to start babysitting, there was a week long program offered through a local hospital called GEMS (Good Emergency Mother Substitutes--I know, gag). It was 40 hours of childcare information, safety information and CPR. So I did that.

Then everyone my parents knew wanted me to babysit. I got all of my gigs from friends of my parents, and they knew a LOT of people with kids. I babysat every weekend and once, I stayed all summer long at someone's house.

Once you get a rep for being good with kids and responsible, the world is your oyster.

So, I'd start cultivating relationships with local teenagers. A community website would be 'okay' but nothing beats actually knowing the person staying with your kids.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:17 AM on February 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

Does your neighborhood/larger metro area have a parent listserv? I'm on a list like that, not as a parent but as someone who occasionally picks up sitting gigs. There are lots of other sitters and nannies on the list pitching their services, and lots of parents sharing their positive experiences with different providers. Seems to fill the same niche you see your app providing, so I'd look into whether your area already has its own list.
posted by ActionPopulated at 7:37 AM on February 17, 2014

Do you have any kids in daycare or preschool? Lots of preschool teachers moonlight as babysitters, and then you've got someone who already knows at least one of your kids.
posted by escabeche at 7:56 AM on February 17, 2014 [3 favorites]

What muffin man is describing in searchable terms is a babysitting coop; we were a part of one and it was fantastic. The babysitters are the other parents and we all set up an off the shelf website to track points for who sat who when. It was a nice little economy. It ende up netting about 2 extra nights off/out a month.

In that circle of friends, most of the parents were teachers, therapists or medical professionals who all had to go through background checks to do their job, or dealt with children all the time anyway. It worked out nicely.
posted by furnace.heart at 8:10 AM on February 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

Counselors at after-school programs and summer camps also often moonlight as babysitters, and most will have gone through background checks. This would still be a stranger, but one with a track record. Some programs will allow a visitor to drop in to observe a counselor interacting with the kids.

I used to work a similar job and would have LOVED being put into a babysitter pool with larger range than the small school where I worked. If you set this up and approach people in these jobs, I imagine you'd get a lot of enthusiastic participation.
posted by jessicapierce at 10:27 AM on February 17, 2014

Ive used and sitter city in the past and after phone interviewing the person and checking references, I have them come over for a 2 hour paid trial (while I'm home). I feel much more comfortable leaving my kids with someone they've had a chance to get to know and that I've observed.
posted by cestmoi15 at 10:40 AM on February 17, 2014

I am a nanny that has gotten jobs from For a full time nanny position there is always a full background check, verification of references, an in person interview where the kids are usually present for at least part of it, and I have spent a day with the outgoing nanny/parent as well.
For "date-night" type of babysitting, there's usually a background check and an interview with yhe parents and a little time with the kids. But I have gotten the majority of my weekend babysitting jobs just from word of mouth references.
I think gut instinct is the leading factor when hiring from these websites.
posted by allnamesaretaken at 11:59 AM on February 17, 2014

I hired my nanny from Sittercity. Initially I planned to run background check etc on her, but she had numerous different glowing references so I didn't run the checks. She does a lot of hours while I am working from home or sleeping after an overnight shift and I have never had any hint of concern about her professionalism yet.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 6:01 PM on February 17, 2014

Check out It's not available everywhere, but I think it's exactly what you're imagining.
posted by judith at 8:58 PM on February 17, 2014

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