When I was a kid, my babysitter was an older woman that my mom found in the newspaper. She had no idea if this woman was trustworthy or not, but she needed a babysitter quickly, and didn't have a lot of money to spend. Thankfully, my babysitter turned out to be a woman who was so special to me that I called her "grandma".
Now, though, the thought of trying to find a non-family member to babysit my daughters sends me into a panic attack. How can I trust a stranger? How will I know they're safe? And beyond that, how would I even go about finding a babysitter? Our neighborhood is short on cheery teens who want to spend their evenings playing games with a preschooler in exchange for $5 an hour.
I recently was introduced to Care.com, though, and I think I've found the answer to those questions. Care.com provides listings for babysitters in your area, allowing you to select and contact those who fit your criteria.
The site has a filter that lets you pick specific criteria when searching for a provider. You can search for someone based on the number of years experience, or someone who can handle pets, or someone who has experience with a certain age group. You can also specify if you're looking for part time or full time care, and how much you're willing to pay. I'm really impressed with how well the filter works to eliminate those who aren't a good match, giving you only the best choices for your needs.
As for safety, when you view a profile, you can learn more about the person, and if you think they are a good match, you can view references and even request to see the background check for that provider. You can also rate a provider on the site, giving one more way to see if a provider is a recommended caregiver or not. Being able to see an official background check goes a long way to settle my nerves over contacting a compete stranger.
But Care.com doesn't just have babysitters. You can also find pet sitters, tutors, senior care, and even housekeepers. Each offers the same filter process to select the best provider, and many profiles will show more than one service offered. (Such as housekeeping and childcare.)
If you need to find a babysitter for those oh-so-rare date nights, take a look at the providers available in your area via Care.com. The basic service is free to sign up for, with premium services available for a subscription fee. The security of references, ratings, and background checks will help you feel you're getting the best babysitter for your children. And they'll probably be more reliable than the neighborhood teen.