BFFs and business partners since their college days at University of California at Santa Barbara, Kasey Edwards and Becka Klauber now own and run the popular babysitting placement company, University Sitters. The entrepreneurs started the child care providing agency in 2007, bringing their own hands-on nanny experience and babysitting backgrounds to the business.
Here, Edwards and Klauber offer parents tips on finding a great babysitter and suggestions on the hiring process. Above all, they say, the three most important characteristics to look for in a great babysitter are compassion, communication and professionalism.
University Sitters helps match babysitters, doulas and nannies to local families. Screened sitters provided through University Sitters are either attending college or have recently graduated. University Sitters caters to Orange County, Los Angeles, San Diego, Santa Barbara and San Francisco. On-call for long and short-term needs or last minute child care, nannies and babysitters have various backgrounds and credentials.&
Whether you’re in a bind and need a last-minute babysitter or are looking for a long-term nanny, Edwards recommends starting online. “It is really the quickest way to find nannies who want work. If you’re working with a reputable agency such as University Sitters, typically the parent requests a sitter to work without an advance interview. Our business utilizes various companies to do background checks and screenings on the people we place.
There are a lot of variables to consider – rates, education, location of the sitter, and experience. We have found it’s safer to use a reputable agency found online than a listing website. Of course, analog options are still viable such as recommendations from mom groups or through friends and neighbors.”
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Follow your gut during the interview process
“At University Sitters, we do a confirmation call where parents can do a phone chat to get comfortable first. If this feels strange to the parents, we make it possible to book extra time, usually 15-30 minutes, on the front end of the job. This gives the family a chance to get to know the sitter before the parents need to leave. For example, we suggest letting the child pick a game to play with the sitter. Once the child and caregiver are in a good flow with parents nearby, parents can head out without worry,” says Edwards.
“If you hire from a listing site that does no screening at all, parents must do their homework. Ask about past jobs – both childcare and outside of the industry. Ask hypothetical questions – ‘If you’re sitting and someone knocks on the door at my house but I didn’t tell you to expect anyone, do you ignore it or answer the door?’ This can lead to a conversation about safety. Use the interview as a space for both learning about the nanny’s framework of understanding and also as a training ground for what you would want. Most families differ on at least a few items, so give a nanny 2-3 weeks to learn your way.”
Edwards says having your children at the interview is a benefit. “See what they think of the nanny. Take your time hiring if you’re doing it without agency help. Use your gut but confirm all good hunches with concrete screening. If you don’t get a good feeling about a person, don’t hire them.”
Help the sitter be successful
To help a sitter be successful on the job, provide expectations in writing. This can include location of the first aid kit, emergency numbers, allergies, bedtimes, tricks to help at bedtime or typical routines, and instructions for after the kids are sleeping such as: “Once Bella is sleeping, please tidy up from dinner and be sure the dog has his dinner.”
Know the going rate
“Negotiating rates can be challenging,” explains Edwards.”Nannies/sitters in most areas are earning at least $15 per hour and we expect this will be changing with minimum wage in flux. Prominent positions can offer as much as $45 hourly or more, depending. We recommend starting with a range that you can afford; advertise your job with or without the rate, and review the types of responses you get. Nannies will usually reply with interest and rate that they think is fair based on their own experience. When negotiating, consider creative ways to save – share a nanny with another family (two kids for $25 hourly vs. paying $15+ for one), offer bigger chunks of time (5 hours a day three days a week instead of 3 hours per day 5 days per week), gas reimbursements, etc.”
While CPR and First Aid training are great to have, Edwards says it’s all about life experience. University Sitters looks at qualitative information about the care provider’s life – do they make good choices, do they have a bright future, does her history and achievements indicate that she has a good head on her shoulders?