10 Questions that will help you hire a babysitter

Every parent needs a night out – a night off! It’s hard to decide who to have watch your kids, and it may be an expense you’re not sure about, so Urban Suburban Mommy caught up with Martha Scully of Sitter.com – one of the largest online caregiver resources in North America – to ask all those questions about finding a sitter that you know you want to know but just can’t find the right person to ask.

mind that child
photo: Todd Huffman

1.  Do babysitters charge by the child – or is it a flat rate per hour, regardless?

Most babysitters charge an hourly rate.  Rates tend to change based on the experience of the babysitter.  A parent should always look for an experienced babysitter, if the child is an Infant/Toddler or has any type of special needs.  If there are 3 children or more in the family, an experienced babysitter should always be the choice.

2. Can you expect the babysitter to watch more than one family?  For example, if the kids have friends sleep over, or if the parents go out with other parents and expect the sitter to watch the kids of both families?

It would not be uncommon for a family to ask a babysitter to care for a friend’s children, too, while they go out.  The parent should definitely ask the sitter if this is okay first.  A few things with this: 1) The babysitter should be paid more when they are asked to do this.  2) The sitter should not be asked to do any other duties within the home like cleaning and the meal should already be prepared or take out – like pizza.

3. Should I hire a kid or an adult?

If you have a child under the age of three, it is highly recommended to hire an individual over 18 years old.  All babysitters should have emergency first aid training, regardless of age.

photo: Jay
photo: Jay

4. Are babies more expensive – and can parents expect the babysitter to change diapers or do feedings?

A parent should always have an experienced sitter for an infant. Experienced babysitters usually charge more. If a babysitter is hired to care for an infant, they should be expected to change diapers, feed, and provide a safe environment.

5. When should I cancel a babysitter if my kid is sick?

If your child is ill, it is always best to cancel the babysitter.  This is especially true when a child has an illness that maybe contagious, or may require additional medical care.

6. Can a babysitter give medication – from Tylenol if the kid feels unwell to prescription medicines left by the family to be administered?

It is not ideal that they do, but yes they can administer medicine.  The parent should give written and verbal direction on how to administer the medication. This is at the babysitter’s discretion – if they’re not comfortable doing so they have the right to refuse.

photo: Michael Kordahi
photo: Michael Kordahi

7. If the kids are asleep and the babysitter is there to watch TV and have snacks is it fair to pay the babysitter less for ‘just hanging out’? Do babysitters expect to be paid more if the kids are up and need to be engaged the whole time?

Usually the babysitter feels that her (his) time is her (his) time, so she (he) should be paid the same regardless if the child is sleeping or not. Some babysitters may expect to be paid more for very late hours (after midnight).

8. Is it okay to ask a babysitter to do light chores – dishes, light cleaning?

It is normal for a babysitter to: tidy areas she has been, unload a dishwasher, fold laundry, and other very light house keeping duties.  It would be unusual for a babysitter to do any heavy cleaning unless they had agreed to ahead of time.  This usually would require additional pay.

9. Do babysitters expect to be picked up and dropped off, or is that the babysitter’s responsibility?

Yes, if they are a younger babysitter the parents of the babysitter would expect that you provide a way for them to get home.

10. What should people ask of a new sitter in terms of experience, training, credentials, references?

A babysitter should be interviewed in person and asked a mix of questions related to experience with children, safety, and interest in the position.  Scenario based questions and answers allow the parent the ability to see if they have the common sense needed to care for children.

Urban Suburban Mommy adds:

Ultimately, you need to be comfortable and confident with the person who will be looking after your children. Word of mouth is always popular, and many people also look for a family friend, but agencies are also a great way to find a professional sitter. You can ask for credentials, and you can also ask to do background checks, ask to see qualifications like first aid and police clearance – yes, when it comes to looking after your children, you can dig as deep as will make you feel comfortable, within reason. You may also want to consider utilizing a nanny-cam for that added assurance. Remember, there’s a fine line between being careful and being neurotic – though as a parent, that’s your prerogative.

Establish the expected rate ahead of your first outing – we haven’t given any dollar figures because they vary from city to county and region to region, making expectations very different depending on your location. You may find that less experienced or younger sitters charge less, while the pros, like Registered Nurses and ECE-qualified sitters, charge more. You can simply ask whether they expect transportation or whether they’ll provide their own. It is customary to provide snacks and beverages, as well as meals if the time frame includes customary meal hours. It’s also customary to tip – usually an amount equivalent to half an hour.

Most importantly, find someone your children like. It will be easier for you to leave, comfortably, knowing your children are happy spending time with this person. Interview the person in your home if you can and see how they interact with your children.

And then go out! You deserve it!!!

martha - oct 2008 250

Martha Scully has worked in Child Care industry for over 20 years. She is the Sitter.com Child Care Expert for North America. To learn more please go to Sitter.com

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