Sittercity Review: High Tech Way to Find a Babysitter

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Babysitter NeededThere may be nothing harder than handing over your child to a sitter for the first time. Even though you may need a break, a date night, or simply to go to work, putting your trust in another person to care for your little person can be tough.

While you will probably feel a bit of angst no matter what, there are modern resources that can make you feel more confident about who you entrust to care for your child.

People used to find sitters through word-of-mouth. If the sitter could keep one family happy, then she would soon have many more families calling her. There was no better way to vet a sitter than through a friend’s referral. While that technique is still used, there are other alternatives now.

One of the alternatives that I have relied on heavily is Sittercity.

How Sittercity Works

Sittercity has all of the tools you need to make your search for a sitter, nanny, pet sitter or housekeeper easier.

There are thousands of sitters available. The recommended way to look for a sitter is to post a job detailing exactly what you are looking for in a sitter–how many hours per week would you like them to work? What skills would you like them to have? Do they need to know CPR? Have a valid driver’s license? How much will you pay per hour? How many kids do you have? What activities would you like the sitter to do with the kids?

You will soon get applications from interested sitters. Depending on the number of applicants, you can choose to interview them right away or have a phone interview first. When you are ready to have them interview at your house, Sittercity holds your hand through the entire process. They have a list of interview questions, recommendations for what you should do in the interview (such as giving the sitter time to interact with your kids for a few minutes at least), and steps to take after the first interview. Sittercity makes the process seamless.

Can Your Sitter Be Trusted?

While I would like to trust everyone, it is still an odd world, and there are strange people out there. Sittercity cares about the safety of both their sitters and the families they work for. They have two tools to help verify your sitter:

1. Feedback. Parents have the opportunity to leave feedback on their experience with a particular sitter. You can read this feedback to get a better feel for the potential sitter’s personality and behavior. (Not every sitter has feedback, though.) This let’s the community tell you how they feel about a sitter an adds color to the other systems they have in place for safety issues.

2. Identity check. Sittercity offers the ability to run a background check on your sitter (for a fee of $14.99). You can also check her driving record. They recommend this after you read reviews, interview the sitter, and check her references (as in calling someone, rather than reading a review they left online). The check is done through LexisNexis and is quick after the sitter grants authorization.

Helping You Navigate Nanny Tax

Sittercity’s support continues even after you have hired a sitter. They offer suggestions on a multitude of issues such as what to do if you are having problems with your sitter, or someone else steals your sitter away to work for them, or what you need to know about nanny taxes. They have even partnered with SurePayroll so you can manage and pay your nanny taxes online.

Drawbacks to Sittercity?

Sittercity itself is a site full of useful information and plenty of babysitters. I used the site exclusively when searching for a sitter in January. However, in my area at least, there seem to be a lot of flaky sitters. I had one woman come for an interview and balk at the 2.5 hour shift. She said if she was going to get out of bed, she wanted to make it worth her while. Another agreed to the job and then never showed up and never called. Finally, I found a wonderful sitter, but she was taking a teaching job, so she was only with us 4 months.

I am beginning my search again, and while the first person I was set to interview never showed up thanks to a “family emergency,” I am still hopeful I will find the right person more easily than before.

People used to find their sitters through word-of-mouth referrals, and while you didn’t get background checks, you would likely trust the sitter based on your friends’ recommendations.  If you don’t have friends who can refer a sitter to you, you are out on your own.  You could try the newspaper or Craigslist, but why take the chance when Sittercity offers so many safeguards?

While Sittercity offers fabulous services such as background checks, the simple truth is that it is a bit like a dating service. You will interact with all sorts of different people on Sittercity, and it may take awhile to find just the right sitter, so start early and expect to review a lot of sitters. That said, this is often easier and faster than asking around your friends or other parents in your parent groups.

Have you ever used Sittercity? How do you find a babysitter?

(Photo: edandeddie)

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4 Responses to “Sittercity Review: High Tech Way to Find a Babysitter”

  1. Thanks Melissa. Thats a comprehensive review.

    What alternatives to Sittercity have you used or you can recommend?

  2. Melissa says:

    I have also tried word of mouth, but unfortunately, in our area, finding a babysitter is so competitive that most people don’t share their sitters. 🙂 When I was younger, I found jobs as a babysitter from ads in the paper, but I wouldn’t look for one like that now. I like the ability to perform a background check.

  3. Martha says:

    How about asking at your local community college’s child development classes? Some of those students also work at my son’s daycare and seem to be reliable.

  4. Melissa says:

    That is a good idea, Martha. I tried that, but I needed someone in the mornings, and most college students were available in the afternoons.

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