Parenting in the modern world can be tough. Between the push and pull of being a dedicated hands-on parent and the demands of work and career responsibilities, it’s not surprising that most American families rely on babysitting services at least once a week.
Being able to find a good babysitter is essential for busy parents. A good babysitter can allow you to rest easy knowing your bundle(s) of joy are in safe hands as you conquer the world -- or at least your to-do list.
The only caveat is that finding the right babysitter for your kids can sometimes feel like looking for a needle in a haystack. After all, you’re not only hiring them to keep your kids occupied. You also need to be able to count on your babysitter to ensure your kids’ health and safety when you’re not around, keep a level head when emergencies arise, and coordinate with you regarding the needs of your children.
To simplify the process, it is best to have a checklist of babysitting qualifications handy so you can refer to it as you start your hiring process. This allows you to narrow down your options and speed up your hiring process without compromising the quality of care your child receives.
Run a Full, County-Level Background Check
By far the most important thing to check when deciding if someone is suitable to be your family’s babysitter or nanny is to check whether they have a criminal record. We go into more detail about it in a separate article, but it bears repeating. Checking your potential babysitter’s or nanny’s criminal record is essential — not only to make sure they are responsible and safe caregivers but also to know if they can be trusted in your home when you are not there. The last thing you want is to find out after the fact that the babysitter you hired had a record you could have known about — if you’d only checked.
As essential as a full criminal background check is, it’s not an easy thing to accomplish. To get a thorough background check, you need the express consent of the person you are checking. Any service that only requires their name, phone number and email address is NOT conducting all the checks they need to in order for you to know the candidate is safe. So make sure you are either ordering a thorough check through a reputable provider (which usually costs upward of $100 per check), or us a babysitter app or service like Nanno, that runs checks on all babysitters as a condition of membership to the platform.
Look for Certifications Relevant to Babysitting
There are 217,213 babysitters and nannies in the United States, all of whom ostensibly have basic child care knowledge and the potential of being a great match for your family. However, while a babysitter’s years of experience in the industry and friendly personality might seem good enough reasons to hire them, the certifications they possess are just as crucial.
Babysitters with certifications in child care have received professional training to properly care for your kids. They have ample knowledge about industry standards and kid safety protocols that are assessed by experts to ensure that they are capable of not only looking after your kid but also keeping them out of danger.
Below, we’ve listed some of the most important babysitting certifications that you may want to look out for during the hiring process.
Some of the Most Common Certifications
- First Aid and CPR Certification - 12,000 children and young adults die from unintentional injuries and 9.2 million are treated for nonfatal injuries every year. So, it helps to hire a babysitter who can come to your kid’s aid. This certification means a babysitter can help with emergencies like choking, physical accidents, animal bites, and poison exposure.
- Newborn Care Certification - Babies have different needs from toddlers and older kids. As such, this certificate is awarded to babysitters with extensive knowledge in caring for infants. Those eligible for this certification have at least two years of experience in the industry, have first aid training, and have infant-specific education such as sleep training, doula training, and more.
- Water-Safety Certification - Swimming is perhaps one of the most popular outdoor activities for kids, but it comes with certain risks. This certification equips babysitters with the know-how to prevent, recognize, and respond to water-related emergencies like drowning. Similar to first aid certifications, this is valid for a limited time and must be renewed so be sure to verify it with Red Cross.
- International Nanny Association (INA) Credential - This credential is granted to caregivers who pass the INA’s basic skills assessment exam or nanny credential exam. This credential means that a babysitter has practical knowledge of child care ranging from child development and safety to family communication and health management.
Nice-to-Have Certifications and Skills
- Driver’s License - While it’s not a necessity for your babysitter to know how to drive, it’s a nice plus when they can drive them to places when needed. Just make sure to check the babysitter’s driving history to see if they’ve had any accidents or DUIs.
- Kid’s Nutrition Certification - Babysitters with this certification have an in-depth understanding of different types of food and their effect on the body. As such, they can come up with meal plans that will ensure your little ones are getting the nutrients and vitamins they need to be healthy.
- Positive Discipline Training - The task of disciplining a child falls on the parents’ or guardians’ shoulders. However, in your absence, there might be situations wherein a babysitter may need to fill this role. Through positive discipline training, babysitters are trained to defuse temper tantrums and similar situations in a positive manner.
- Foreign Language Certification - Whether your family has immigrated from another country or you are looking to help your kids learn a foreign language, a nanny with a foreign language certification can be a huge plus. They can help you expose your kids to a different language at a young age so that they can absorb the information quicker making them more proficient in the language.
- Special Needs Training - If you are caring for a child with special needs, be it physical, developmental, or behavioral, it might be best to consider getting a babysitter who is trained to help them. This type of training equips babysitters to provide kids with special needs the specific attention they require.
- Anaphylaxis Training - Anaphylaxis or life-threatening allergies have become so frequent in the United States that it affects approximately one in 50 Americans. If it affects your child, then hiring a babysitter who knows how to detect it and administer the necessary medicine to stop it is definitely worth considering.
Checking your babysitter’s credentials can be confusing, and it can often be awkward to ask them to show you things like their CPR card, or to quiz them on whether they know the basics of first aid or infant safety. One way to get the information you need about your babysitters without having to go through the process yourself every time is to use a reliable babysitter app or service like Nanno, that does the vetting for you.
Ask the Right Questions
Once you have narrowed down your prospective babysitters, you can start to dive a little deeper into assessing them. One way to do this is to conduct interviews. This allows you to get a feel of how your prospective babysitters are as a person.
To ensure the success of your interview, start by outlining what qualities you are looking for and try to formulate your questions from there. Below we have a few suggestions that you may want to consider:
Basic Questions on Babysitting Background
These questions are designed to help you understand more about the candidates’ babysitting experience. This could involve some inquiries on the jobs they mentioned in their resume as well as whether they enjoy their current vocation.
Another line of questioning to consider here would be their work setup and schedule as well as factors that may hinder them from their duties as a babysitter. Some examples you can draw from are:
- What inspired you to become a babysitter?
- What is the most challenging aspect of babysitting for you?
- Do you have professional training in child care?
- How flexible is your schedule? Are you available on short notice?
- Do you live nearby? If not, will transportation be an issue?
Questions That Target Expectations
Aside from asking about a babysitter’s professional background, try to ask them questions that help you determine whether they can meet your more specific expectations and requirements. This could be about their babysitting style, their ability to care for a special needs child, or their capacity to assist a child with homework and even prepare their food. Some sample questions would be:
- What would you say your babysitting style is like?
- How do you address a child’s tantrums?
- Would you be amenable to helping my kid with homework?
- Can you prepare nutritious meals for my kids?
In addition to the questions mentioned, you may want to set up expectations about your household. For example, if you have pets, you may want to ask the applicants if they have allergies or if they are scared of certain animals. With these questions, you can brief an applicant about what they should anticipate should they work for you as well as give them the opportunity to raise concerns about the potential work setup.
You may also want to add some situational questions to help you understand their thought process and problem-solving skills. Try to lay down some specific scenarios that are highly likely to happen in your household and ask them how they would respond. Here, you can ask questions about how they ensure kid safety, how they would deal with temper tantrums, or perhaps what they would do if your kid is sick.
Look for Interview Shortcuts
As important as interviews can be when looking for a long-term babysitter or full-time nanny, sometimes — when you need a sitter on short notice — there may not be time to conduct individual interviews on hundreds of candidates to find the right one. That’s when it can be helpful to use a babysitting app or service that has done the work for you, and has vetted hundreds of candidates in your area BEFORE you need them. Using technology, babysitting apps like Nanno can delve into the backgrounds and qualifications of hundreds of nearby babysitters, and give you the ability to search and filter based on your specific needs, helping you find a good fit for your family without conducting hours of in-person interviews yourself.
Reach Out to Professional References and Past Clients of the Babysitter
Résumés, background checks, and interviews are great ways to get to know a babysitter but they can only go so far. In any job application, a candidate will try their best to look good on paper and present themselves in a more favorable light. So, it’s possible for you to miss some critical information about your prospect. To get a better sense of a babysitting applicant’s work ethic, your best bet is to ask their previous clients.
As much as possible, call the references instead of emailing them. This allows you to check the tone of their voice and their body language as you discuss your prospective babysitter. These are huge indicators of how they feel about the person you’re trying to hire.
For instance, if they sound enthusiastic during your call, it may be a sign that they were satisfied with the babysitter’s services. However, if they sound flustered or guarded about their answers, this might be a red flag. Of course, there’s no surefire way to interpret these indicators so you may also want to come up with a list of questions that will help you get more specific answers.
What Questions Should You Ask?
- How long did the babysitter work for you? - This can give you an idea of whether the babysitter jumps from client to client quickly or if they stay with a particular client for a longer period.
- Why is he or she no longer babysitting for you? - This allows you to get a sense of potential problems that may have led to his or her termination. However, keep in mind that there are many reasons for parents and babysitters to part ways that are not necessarily reflections of a babysitter’s performance.
- What are his or her work ethics like? Are they reliable, punctual, and good at following directions? - This helps you determine more specific habits and attitudes of the babysitter that affect how they carry out their job.
- What is his or her personality like as a babysitter? - This allows you to set expectations regarding the prospect’s demeanor and babysitting style, particularly whether they are strict, playful, and motherly/fatherly.
- How did he or she interact with your kids? Do the kids like him or her? - This is perhaps the most crucial question you can ask as it helps you gain the perspective of the kids.
In addition to these questions, be sure to end your call with an open-ended inquiry. Try to ask the parent if there is anything else that you should know about the babysitter. This way, you can leave no stone unturned.
Use a Babysitting Platform With Strict Vetting Processes
When finding a babysitter, it is best to pull out all the stops as you evaluate them. After all, the safety and well-being of your little ones are at stake. However, screening babysitters can be awkward and expensive -- and if you have a busy schedule or need a last-minute babysitter, you might just not have time to thoroughly screen your applicants.
A babysitting platform or service can perform the vetting process for you. But not all services are created equal. Make sure the service you use is at a minimum running a full background check on all of its candidates. Ideally, they should also be conducting additional vetting to ensure that you are booking a high quality babysitter. Among the steps of the vetting process that they should be able to do for you are:
- Extensive background check - As discussed above, this not only validates an applicant’s identity but also ensures they haven’t had any previous run-ins with the law. This should include a national criminal search (which checks digitalized records nationwide), a county-level criminal search (which is a complete check of all records down to the county level, where most criminal records are kept), a 50-state sex offender search, a social security number trace (which confirms that they are who they say they are), and a global watchlist search. This way, you can rest easy knowing you are leaving your kids in good hands.
- Child care knowledge assessment - This evaluation helps platforms determine a babysitter’s mastery of the job. It usually involves an exam that will assess their knowledge on everything from basic child care to first aid and kid safety.
- Behavioral evaluation- To check for personality fit -- that babysitter candidates have the right personality to care for kids and put their needs above the babysitters’ own -- babysitting apps and babysitting services should also conduct a behavioral test on applicants. These assessments leverage applied psychology to determine a babysitter’s psychological stability as well as to assess if there are any red flags such as untrustworthy or risky behavior.
- Personal profile review - This is the step of the process that focuses on checking a babysitter’s industry experience and job history. In some cases, this involves looking at their proximity to you and taking a look at any certifications they may have that are relevant to your requirements.
Simplify Your Search for a Babysitter
Babysitters are your partners in nurturing your kids. They shoulder the responsibility of attending to the needs of your little ones and keeping them company when you become busy with work and other responsibilities that life throws your way. More than that, however, they will also become an influence on your baby’s development. So, you must find a babysitter who is trustworthy, reliable and has good character.
Hopefully, the steps we’ve outlined here can bring you a step closer to finding the right babysitter for your child. In case the entire process of assessing and interviewing babysitters still seems daunting, Nanno is here to help. Handling the end-to-end process of qualifying, vetting, and pairing the right talent for your family is our business— this way, you can have peace of mind knowing you are leaving your bundle of joy with a capable babysitter.