Leaving your kids with a babysitter can be stressful, especially if it's a new babysitter. There are steps you can take to find a babysitter you trust though.
How do you find a reliable babysitter you can trust? Asking family and friends for referrals of babysitters they trust is a great place to start. That way you know at least someone can vouch for them. But it's still important to conduct your own babysitting interview and background checks to be as sure as you can that they're reliable.
In this article, I'll explain how to find a trustworthy babysitter for your family.
How To Find A Reliable Babysitter
When you're leaving your children with a babysitter, you want to know ahead of time that they're some reliable and trustworthy that you can put your confidence in.
It's no fun going out for the evening if you're going to spend the entire evening fretting if things are okay at home. That's why it's critical to make sure you've got a reliable sitter.
The truth is that there are trustworthy and reliable babysitters out there. You just need to learn how to find them.
Qualities of A Reliable Babysitter
There are some common qualities that all good babysitters have. Look for these signs and the trustworthy babysitters should really pop out from among all of the different people you have to choose from.
Friendly and Likeable
It might seem shallow, but having a babysitter that both you and your children like can be really important. Kids and adults alike have a really good intuition for who they think will be a good fit.
You can usually tell right away if someone will be a good babysitter when you first meet them. You want someone smiling, happy, kind, and full of energy. Babysitter candidates who seem gloomy, lethargic, or disinterested are probably not the best choice.
If something doesn't feel right when you first meet a potential new babysitter, pay attention to it as a warning sign. But don't immediately discount them entirely. Sometimes nervousness can make a bad first impression, but you could still warm up to them with time.
Professional and responsible
Punctuality is one way that I quickly judge a potential babysitter on their reliability.
If they can't show up on time for an interview, there's a chance they will be consistently late whenever you need them to show up. It's hard to place your trust in a sitter that can't show up on time, and that can tend to carry over into other areas of their work as well.
Experience and a proven track record is certainly one way that sitters can prove they're reliable. However, you may want to also consider younger babysitters. As long as they show an ability to take charge and be responsible, they're worth giving a chance.
The more knowledge your babysitter has, the easier I find it is to place your trust in them.
Picking a babysitter who has up-to-date CPR and First Aid certification is a great place to start.
For younger sitters, checking to see if they've completed a babysitting course is also a must for me.
You may also require special knowledge if your child is younger. In that case, ask your sitter if they know how to change diapers, prepare a bottle, put kids into a car seat, or any other information that you feel they'll need to adequately do their job.
Once you hire a babysitter you can always teach them some minor things that you would like them to do. But the more knowledge that they have when starting the job, the easier it will be for everyone.
Find A Trustworthy Babysitter
The first step to finding a trustworthy babysitter is to start by looking in the right places.
Avoid More Anonymous Connections
You could find a sitter through Craigslist or Gumtree. Or by putting up flyers. But in my opinion this should be your last resort to find babysitters.
The sitters you find through these methods will be complete strangers with no prior connection to anyone in your network.
Start Close To Home
Instead of reaching out to strangers, try to find a babysitter based of the recommendation of a friend or family member.
It's not a guarantee that the sitter will be trustworthy. But it certainly helps if you've got a trusted family member whose judgment you trust to vouch for them.
I would recommend starting as close to home as possible. Start with family members and friends first. They know you best, so they'll likely be able to match you with a sitter who fits your personality and parenting style.
Expand Your Search
If you still need more leads on a good babysitter, you can try asking other parents you know through playgroups or school.
If you find that you're still having trouble finding a sitter, widen your search a little more. You can ask local parents in a Facebook group, contact daycares or schools for recommendations, or any other trusted organizations in your area who interact with kids. If you belong to a church or a local center like the YMCA you could try there as well.
Try Websites and Agencies
You may ask everyone you think of and still not be able to find a reliable babysitter.
In that case, you may want to try a babysitting website or agency.
These websites perform background checks so there is some degree of safety included, although you should still do your own babysitter interview as well.
One downside is that these services often charge you a fee. It can end up being more costly for both you and the sitter to go through these services instead of connecting with someone directly.
Vetting Potential Babysitters
Part of how to find a trustworthy babysitter is doing your due diligence.
You wouldn't make any other big decision like buying a car without speaking to someone and doing your research first. I feel that picking a babysitter is no different.
There is some basic work you should do to ensure your candidate is a caring and reliable sitter before hiring them. Don't just go off the recommendation of a family member or friend, even if it's someone you trust.
Interview Your Potential Babysitter
You can do a babysitter interview over the phone, but I prefer to meet in person. You can pick up a lot more subtle details about a candidate from their body language and facial expressions. Within a few minutes, you should get a strong gut feeling on whether a candidate is trustworthy or not.
Read my article How to Interview a Babysitter for some essential tips and trusted techniques that will help you find a reliable sitter.
After that, read my 43 Babysitter Interview Questions (And What Responses to Look For) article so that you know what to discuss with your babysitting candidate.
Verify Their Credentials
During the babysitter interview, is a great time to verify any special skills or qualifications that your candidate had listed on their resume.
At a bare minimum, you want to verify their identity. For adults this is as easy as taking a look at their driver's license. For kids under 16, this can be more difficult, but they may have a student card, a birth certificate, or some other document to prove they are who they claim to be.
If your sitter has taken a babysitting course or any CPR and First Aid training, check their certifications and ensure that they are still up to date.
Perform A Background Check
Part of the babysitting interview process should be obtaining a list of references and making sure that you have permission from the babysitting candidate to conduct a background check.
Even if you got a positive feeling about a particular babysitter during your interview with them, I still recommend doing a full background check.
It's worth the extra 30 minutes of your time to follow up as much as possible and ensure there aren't any surprises. After all, this is someone that you're going to leave alone in charge of your children.
Before you make a call or send an email to a reference, read my Babysitter Reference Checking article to make sure that you're asking the right questions!
Aside from contacting references, there are a number of other background checks that you might want to complete on babysitting candidates to ensure they're trustworthy and reliable.
Some of these checks are free and you can do them yourself. For example, you can check their social media to make sure there are no reckless or concerning posts.
For other types of background checks, you may need to contact the police or another agency. Such as checking the National Sex Offender Registry or checking their criminal history.
For a complete guide for parents on running babysitter background checks, click through to my Babysitter Background Checks article!
Lastly, there are some private agencies that will help to conduct a full background check on your candidate for a fee. However, I recommend avoiding any websites that promise instant or automated background checks.
Invite The Babysitter Over For A Test Run
After you've interviewed your babysitter candidate and run all of your background checks and everything looks good, I recommend having the sitter come over for a trial run.
Set some time aside for them to come over while you'll be home. They can watch the kids and get to know them while you catch up on some chores or do some yard work.
Basically you want to give them enough space to let them do their thing, but be close enough that you can observe how they babysit to some degree as well.
Since they're working, be sure to pay your sitter for their time. You may make your test run only last for 2 to 4 hours just to get an idea of what they're like while they babysit.
After your test run, spend a couple minutes talking with them about how it went. See if they have any questions or need clarifications on anything before they go.
Then it's time to sit down and see what your gut says about them. Usually, you'll have a pretty clear feeling about whether a potential babysitter is or isn't right for your family. However, it's also a bit unreasonable to expect everything to go perfectly the first time. So give some leniency and know your sitter will adapt over the next few times that they work for you.
It's also a good idea to check in with your child and see if they have any of their own opinions about the babysitter. Ask them how their time with the sitter went, if they had fun, whether they think the babysitter is friendly, or other questions to gauge their comfort.
What Age Is A Reliable Babysitter?
The older and more mature a babysitter is, generally the more reliable and trustworthy they'll be.
Ideally you want a babysitter in their late teens. Even a sitter in their 20s who is a teacher or daycare worker, or has a kid of their own. However, these very experienced babysitters will often charge a premium for their services, so it isn't always possible to hire them.
The age of a babysitter you're willing to hire will depend on how old your child is, and how comfortable you are with them.
If you have an infant or a younger child, I always recommend hiring a more experienced or older babysitter. Usually, 16+ is old enough that they'll know what to do in an emergency without panicking.
If your child is a toddler or school-aged child, you may be okay leaving your child with a babysitter aged 11 to 15. On the lower end, I recommend only hiring 11 or 12-year-old babysitters who have completed a babysitting course. That way you can be more confident that they know the basics of first aid, how to interact with kids, and other basic childcare skills.
I find that maturity and experience can vary a lot in younger babysitters. So it's extra important to interview them to see whether they are a good fit for your family, or if they're not quite ready yet.
Can a sibling babysit a younger child? Learn about the age and maturity requirements of siblings here.
What Rate Does A Reliable Babysitter Charge?
Babysitting rates can vary significantly depending on where you live. Even within the same region, rates can vary significantly from city to city.
In Australia, rates are fairly consistent across different cities. The average sitter will cost you about $19 or $20 per hour for one child.
In the United States, the average babysitter charges about $16 or $17 per hour. But rates can vary more widely in the US from city to city.
Anything between $12 and $25 per hour may be the norm for your area. It's best to ask several other local parents how much they pay their babysitter to make sure you're in the right general range.
If you want a reliable and trustworthy babysitter, my advice is to aim for a sitter who is charging a rate somewhere in the middle range for your city.
You want to avoid a babysitter who is charging a really low rate, like $10 per hour or less. There's a chance they're a great babysitter who is just undervaluing their services. But more often than not, a sitter who charges a low rate is either very young or inexperienced. Not the best choice for your first babysitter, unless you are just looking for someone to come over to watch the kids while you're working from home.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, you also don't need to pay the absolute highest rate. A babysitter who is charging $18 per hour can often do the job just as well as a sitter who will charge you $20 per hour or more.
It's Okay To Have High Standards For Your Babysitter
Don't feel like you have to settle on a babysitter within the first handful that you interview. You may choose a round of candidates to speak with and find that none of them are a good fit for you.
Give yourself the space and time to make a great choice for you and your family.
Chances are that when you meet a reliable and trustworthy babysitter, it will just feel right.
They might not be absolutely perfect at first. Building trust will take some time. But trust your intuition if you get a good gut feeling and all of your background checks come back clean.
Once you do find a reliable babysitter, treat them well! Finding a trustworthy sitter that matches your personality and parenting style can be tough. So it's best to treat and pay a reliable sitter well and keep them working for you for years to come.
You can find a reliable babysitter!
Following the steps that I've outlined above will help to maximize your chances of ending up with a babysitter that is truly trustworthy.
Ask friends or family for recommendations. Don't stop there though. Be sure to interview and perform background checks on any babysitter before you consider hiring them.
Don't be afraid to listen to your gut if it's giving you a strong indication that someone is or isn't a good fit too. Often parents pick up on body language or little things that give clues about whether a babysitter would be a good choice or not.
Once you find a reliable and trustworthy babysitter, do everything you can to set them up for success. Let babysitters know what your expectations are, discuss house rules and feeding or sleeping schedules, and leave them emergency numbers or any other information they might need.
How to interview a babysitter
(What you Need to Know!)
Warning Signs of a Bad Babysitter
(19 Red Flags to Avoid!)
16 Signs of A Good Babysitter
(KEEP them if they do this...)
Find a Sitter
The Perfect Gift For Your Babysitter
My book, Babysitting Business Secrets, is out now as an inexpensive ebook or full-color paperback. If your babysitter is serious about becoming the best sitter they can be, then this book is perfect for them. I reveal all my tricks and tips for first-time babysitters or experienced sitters who just want to up their game. Get your copy today!
- Matthew Taylor, Kidsit Founder