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Ask A Bay Area Expert: How To Find The Perfect Babysitter

Babysitter (credit: STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN/AFP/Getty Images)

UrbanSitter has led the way into the brave new world of finding dependable babysitters and nannies via the internet, taking the guesswork out of finding a match. Created by moms, it's been a huge success since the 2011 launch, going from a notion to a national site in year one.

Lynn Perkins, CEO, UrbanSitter(credit: UrbanSitter)

Lynn Perkins
CEO and Co-Founder

Perkins has more than 15 years of startup experience following a corporate career. "I had my 'aha moment' when a friend called me in a panic before an important event because her sitter had canceled at the last minute. A natural matchmaker, I was glad to help her find someone to step in ... I realized that there should be an easier, more efficient way to find a great babysitter." The Bay Area mom, a graduate of Stanford University, lives in San Francisco with her husband and three sons. We spoke with her about the top tips for finding the perfect babysitter in this modern day and age.

Choose Experience By Age Group

"Find a sitter who has experience with your child's age," suggests Perkins. People tend to look at overall years of experience in a sitter, which is good, but it doesn't zero in on your child's age group. It is especially important to make sure that a sitter's experience includes caregiving for infants and babies when that is your child's age. On UrbanSitter, parents can see any certifications a care provider has, such as CPR training, in addition to a background check.

Use Your Own Network

Look for a babysitter who has been booked and recommended by somebody you know. UrbanSitter shows you sitters who are rated and reviewed by parents you know via your own social networks. Outside UrbanSitter, the same principle applies — leverage your own network for referrals and follow up. Perkins suggests, "When talking to the babysitter's references, I like to ask, 'If you could give one piece of confidential advice to this sitter to improve them in the role, what would it be?'" If you've recently moved or haven't built a network of parents, UrbanSitter provides a sitter's number of repeat bookings by other families, a useful guideline.

Look For A Genuine Smile

Personality is so important. At UrbanSitter, parents can read babysitter profiles accompanied by a photo. They can also watch a brief video submitted by each babysitter. It is likely to be something simple recorded on a smartphone, but it does add a lot to the process of getting acquainted. Look for a personality fit that comes through with these resources before booking or arranging for a further interview. This plays into one of Perkins' other tips, "go with your gut," which is a consideration for any hiring situation.

Provide More Information For The Best Match

Make sure you share enough about your family to allow the sitter to get an idea about your lifestyle and the job expectations upfront. Just as you want to get a good feel for the babysitter, the sitter is also more likely to accept jobs from new families when that information is included. With an ongoing babysitting role, it's even more important to accurately articulate the role. Perkins says, "Make sure the care provider's desired hours and pay match yours. I know this sounds obvious, but I've seen families struggle to accommodate a sitter or nanny's schedule, and it ends up not being a good long-term match for either party."

Expand Your Network Via Babysitters

If a sitter has to decline a job, she may suggest her friends on UrbanSitter who are available for that date and time. Perkins explains this tip, which surfaced as feedback from users. "We originally assumed that if a parent's favorite babysitter was not available, parents would use UrbanSitter to find sitters recommended by parents they know. It turns out that parents prefer to book friends of their favorite sitter." The babysitter refer-a-friend model is enhanced by an additional layer of vetting through UrbanSitter.

Laurie Jo Miller Farr loves walkable cities. A tourism industry professional and transplanted New Yorker by way of half-a-lifetime in London, she's writing about the best of the bay and beyond for Yahoo, USA Today, eHow, and on


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