We've been very lucky to have found an awesome babysitter for our girls, but I have had many friends where that's not been the case. Tales of unreliable, unkind babysitters have made the rounds. I often get asked how I was able to find such an amazing babysitter and, while a lot of it seemed second nature to me when we hired her, apparently not everyone does the same thing. Our babysitter has been with us for the last six years and is now more family than anything else. If I was going to go through the process again, here's how I would choose an awesome babysitter for my kids.
Evaluate the Initial Contact
Whether you're placing a help wanted ad online or finding your babysitter through a service, that first impression means a lot. You can tell a lot about a person by how they respond and what information they include. I've also found that you can tell a lot about a person's manners in those initial contact emails or texts! If someone only responds in text-speak or is too informal, it may not be a good fit. Once you've found someone who seems like they'd be a good fit, schedule a face-to-face interview.
The interviewing process can be nerve wracking for anyone, but when you're evaluating someone to be a caregiver for your children, it can create even more pressure. Even if your potential babysitter has been referred by a friend or family member, it's still important to do a face-to-face interview just to be sure the person would be a good fit. Ask questions about their experience, expectations, behavior management style, etc. If your child has a particular need or disability, gather information about what the potential babysitter knows about providing those needs. Don't forget to explain, in detail, what you expect from the candidate, so that you can make sure you're all on the same page. Also, if you're expecting her to drive your kids to and from activities, be sure to ask about her driving record and experience too.
Always call references. Always. Even if the babysitter comes highly recommended from your best friend, call other references to get a broader perspective. For example, the candidate may be great with girls, but she may not be the most patient with boys. Don't be shy about asking questions of the references either. The more you know, the more informed your decision can be.
Get Clearances and a Background Check
If you're hiring an adult, get child-abuse clearances and do a background check to make sure your potential babysitter hasn't been convicted of a crime. It may cost you a small amount of money to get the clearances, but they're worth the peace of mind. If you're hiring a teenager to babysit for your kids, you may not be able to get legal clearances, but you can request copies of their CPR and First Aid certifications.
Trust Your Gut
Above all else, trust your instincts. If something feels not quite right about the person, don't hire them. Use your Mommy Spider-sense to gauge who would be a good fit and who wouldn't. Chances are that you'll instinctively know when you've found the right person.
Be Home the First Time
Have your prospective sitter come over and watch your kids while you are home but working on a project where you could use an extra set of hands. It creates an opportunity to see how the sitter will interact with your kids after a few hours, not just in the 20 minutes while you are interviewing them.
After he or she leaves, always ask what your kids thought. Was it fun, did they play together, what did they eat for lunch? Safety is MOST important but if the kids are happy and having fun too, it makes it a lot easier on all parties when it is time to actually leave the house for real.
Choosing an awesome babysitter isn't a quick process and it's not one that should be rushed. Do some investigate work, trust your gut, and only hire someone who you feel completely comfortable with. Your children's safety is more important than rushing through the process of finding someone.