reading to toddler

By America’s Nanny Michelle LaRowe – In my third book, Working Mom’s 411: How to Manage Kids, Career and Home, I remember penning these sentences:

“You knew giving birth could be a long and difficult process and that it could even bring unexpected complications.  You anticipated a few sleepless nights, expecting that to be tough.  You were fairly warned.  But who would have known that finding a loving, nurturing, reliable person to care for your bundle of joy would be so complicated.”

Never did I know how close to home those words would hit. How loud those words would ring true.

Finding a Qualified Babysitter

As a professional nanny with over 15 years of experience caring exclusively for multiples, knowing what I was looking for in a quality care giver wasn’t the problem.

Finding one was.

While everything inside me cringes when I think of parents who hire a child care provider sight unseen from websites like Craigslist, living on Cape Cod, I definitely recognize that my options are limited for recruiting potential caregivers.  Unlike in my old Boston area stomping ground where there were several quality nanny placement agencies, some which offered babysitting services, within a few miles of each other, that simply isn’t the case here.

In Person vs Internet Search

While we weren’t looking for full-time help, but instead an occasional evening and weekend sitter or two that we would be able to call on when we got in a pinch or wanted to have a night to ourselves,  I just wasn’t satisfied using a classified ad to recruit our potential sitters. And as founder of The Cape Cod Baby Planner, I knew that if I was having a hard time locating potential sitters myself, my clients surely would too. I needed to find a solution that didn’t involve an Internet only recruiting approach and I needed to find one quickly.

Then came a Facebook status update from a friend that gave me hope. Her post seemed to be a lead to someone or something that could solve my problem. “Sitter Mixer is coming to our town.” If Sitter Mixer was coming to my friend’s town, it could certainly come to my own.

After doing a little research, I reached out to Katy Langhorst and Tara Harville-Fry, founders of and requested that a Sitter Mixer come to my area and the rest is history.

We hosted a Sitter Mixer in my home town, and low and behold, I met and interviewed a few qualified potential sitters, but one stood out I definitely liked best.

As I would advise any parent, after our interview that night, I checked her references and after they came back glowing, conducted a second, working interview with my husband and children present.

The interview went very well and at this point I wanted to offer her our position, but knew there was a final step I had to take. It was time to conduct a background screening. With my knees shaking, I asked the potential sitter to complete the consent forms that would allow a background screening to be performed.

While Sitter Mixer gathered a resume and did a reference check on the babysitters at the event, I knew the ultimate screening responsibility and hiring decision was mine. Fortunately, given my background and involvement with the nanny industry, I was aware of the steps I needed to take to be sure a proper screening was done.

Background Screenings

I followed the International Nanny Association’s recommended practices for background screenings (click here for a list of recommended practices for background screening) and used an INA member agency to conduct the screening for me.

Much to my relief, my gut feeling was right and her screening came back with no negative indications. I followed up with the sitter and we booked our first date night out.

While I have mixed feelings about leaving my children with a sitter for the first time, I have complete confidence in the sitter we’ve chosen.

So if you’re having a hard time finding a babysitter for your children, what steps can you take to secure you find one you are comfortable with and confident in?

1. Put the word out you are looking for a sitter. Tell friends, your child’s friends parents, church members, teachers and other people in your social circle that you are looking for a sitter and they just may have a recommendation for you.

2. Attend a Sitter Mixer type of event. There are companies like Sitter Mixer across the country that hold meet and greets for moms and sitters. If there isn’t one in your area, reach out to a company in your state and ask about bringing one to your home town.

3. Conduct a preliminary interview of candidates you are interested in. Schedule a meeting in a public area with each sitter you are interested in. Have a simple application that asks for contact information, experiences and references. Share about your position and find out about her experience. Prepare in advance by compiling a list of interview questions and educating yourself on what questions are legal and illegal to ask.

4. Contact references. Ask a mix of open ended questions like “How did Mary handle it when your child cried?” and yes and no questions like “Would you hire Mary again?” Listen to the tone of the reference and hone in on what is not said, as much as what is.

5. Hold a second interview. If you think a potential sitter may be a good match, conduct a second interview at your home with your children present. Watch to see how she interacts with your children and if your children and the sitter seem to click. If you will be holding a working interview, be sure to compensate your sitter accordingly.

6. Do a background screening. If the interview went well and you plan on making an offer to hire, don’t skip out on doing a thorough background screening. Save your money and skip the online screenings all together and contact a reputable private investigation service that specializes in screening domestic employees. Remember, you must obtain written consent to do a background screening . The company you are working with will supply you with the necessary forms and handouts.

While it may seem like a chunk of time and energy go into finding the right sitter, it often does. Knowing your children will be well cared for while you are away is worth it.

Editor’s Note

There are several online services now availbe to hep you find a qualifies sitter, they do the back ground checks for you.

Michelle La Rowe

About America's Nanny:

Michelle is an active member of the nanny community. She is the founder and president of Boston Area Nannies, Inc., a local non-profit educational organization and has served on the International Nanny Association Board of Directors.

She is called on by the media as a nanny and parenting expert and has been affectionately dubbed America's Nanny. Michelle has appeared on television and has been featured in print.

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America's Nanny

Books by Michelle LaRowe

A Mom's Ultimate Book of Lists: 100+ Lists to Save You Time, Money and Sanity - Grocery lists. Checklists. To-do lists. Lots of people love--and live by--lists. And parents are no exception. Today's families are busier than ever, and moms don't have the time or energy to search and scramble for the parenting information they are desperately seeking. This handy, practical reference guide will save time, money, and sanity for today's busy women.

Working Mom's 411 is your one-stop resource guide for navigating through the often choppy waters of managing kids, career and home.

Nanny to the Rescue - America's nanny offers a large dose of healthy parenting advice with secrets for raising happy, secure, and well-balanced babies and toddlers.

Nanny To the Rescue Again - Faced with multiple choices regarding school, friends, and activities coupled with the ever-widening influence of the outside world, parents of 6-12-year-olds need help. America's nanny is back to offer a large dose of healthy parenting advice with secrets for raising happy, secure, and well-balanced children.
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Michelle La Rowe La RoweAmerican NannyFamily Safety Tips,Parenting,Parenting Baby and ToddlerBy America's Nanny Michelle LaRowe - In my third book, Working Mom's 411: How to Manage Kids, Career and Home, I remember penning these sentences: 'You knew giving birth could be a long and difficult process and that it could even bring unexpected complications.  You anticipated a few sleepless nights, expecting that to...Parenting Advice| Family Fun Activities for Kids