How to Find a Summer Babysitter
5 steps for hiring a seasonal sitter without the stress.
If your babysitter just announced she's leaving for the summer or the first few weeks of the season are already overwhelming your schedule, you're in a pinch, but don't panic. Finding the right nanny or temporary sitter is as easy as making a simple checklist and following a plan. Here is what you should do.
For more advice, read our 8 Tips for Finding a Summer Nanny »
Write a Job Description
When hiring a summer sitter, consider the changes to your needs, your schedule and, most importantly, the transition for the kids. If you have school-age children, your sitter's duties will likely differ in the summer from other months throughout the year. The kids are now home full-time, and if you're still at work full-time, you may need someone to help out with transportation, meals and keeping the kids active.
Before starting your search for the perfect sitter, sit down and write a job description. Think about what you loved (or weren't so fond of) with your last sitter and consider his or her ideal traits. List job responsibilities and any requirements, whether it's a certain age, level of experience, college education or life guard and CPR certification. The more detailed the list, the more likely it is that only the most ideal candidates will apply, saving you time and stress. Once you're prepped, you'll work your way through finding the right sitter with ease.
Spread the Word
One of the best ways to find a summer babysitter fast is to let others know you're looking for one. Take your newly formed and polished job description and put it to work.
- Post on message boards and community websites. Just beware of people pushing a former babysitter too much and be sure to call other references and do a background check.
- Ask around. Talk to friends, neighbors and family, and ask them to ask around to help you find a trusted reference. If you have friends who are also employing summer help, speak with their nannies. A lot of sitters know others who are in the same profession and may be able to refer a great candidate to watch your little ones. "It's always helpful to ask current sitters, playground moms and even neighbors for referrals," said Onica Cupido, creator of parenting blog The Mommy Factor and a mother of one. "Finding someone who's known by someone you already know is a plus because these people [your friends] already know your family lifestyle and needs."
- Think local. Who might your child already feel comfortable around? Don't be afraid to ask your child's camp counselor or a caregiver at a local daycare or gym if they babysit on the side.
- Let babysitters come to you. Take the job description you wrote and post it on a babysitter-matching service such as (ahem!) Care.com. When you create a summer child care job ad, the candidates will respond, and ideally you will get people who meet each qualification you asked for.
Vet the Most Qualified Applicants and Check References
Compile all of the applications you receive and check them against your job description. Decide what, if anything, you're willing to compromise on. For example, if you listed a college degree as a requirement, but have an applicant who is in her junior year working toward her teaching degree and meets all the other must-haves on your list, is this someone you'd still consider? A job description is perfect for outlining your needs, but every application is different and sometimes you don't know what you want until you see it.
Once you've vetted your applicants and have a solid list, you're ready to hop on the phone. Call references for every potential babysitter, no matter who recommended them. Ask about more than just work experience -- maturity and responsibility are just as important. Dig beyond the initial references applicants offer, as other references may present more insight. Try a college professor, neighbor or former employer. Then require a professional background check for any finalists.
Get the Kids Involved in the Interview Process
All applicants should go through an in-person interview, but if this is not possible (e.g. the applicant is still a student at college), a phone or Skype interview may suffice. Kids may enjoy the process as well -- if they're older, you can empower them by letting them ask questions within the interview process. Even if they ask "silly" questions like, "What's your favorite game,?" the applicants' answers could help sway the decision between final candidates. Allowing kids to get involved can also make the transition to a new babysitter go smoother. Losing a caregiver often affects children more than you may realize.
Set Expectations and Get Everyone On the Same Page
Once you choose a babysitter, both parties should complete and sign a nanny contract, even if it's just for the summer. Setting expectations regarding start and end times, compensation, vacation dates and care requirements. Have both parties sign it.
Maria Adcock, proud first-time mom, is a marketer and freelance writer in Long Island, NY. She has worked for publications such as InStyle, Real Simple, Entertainment Weekly, Southern Living, Cooking Light and Health. Her work can be found here.
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