How to Find a Babysitter I Can Trust?

Parent Q&A

Occasional babysitter woes -- could use advice and maybe the BSC Jun 14, 2021 (5 responses below)
Parent apprehensive about childcare in the Bay Area Dec 21, 2016 (6 responses below)
  • Dear fellow Berkeley-area parents,

    I'm feeling pretty frustrated right now and could use some advice. I'm the parent of a 7-old-old and an 11-month-old. The 7-year-old had a wonderful, amazing part-time babysitter from age 2-6, approximately. At that point she left to pursue a full time journalism job. We're still in touch and think of her like extended family. We miss her terribly! In the past we used Urban Sitter to find people to fill in at times when she wasn't available.

    Well, fast forward through the pandemic and having another child. Now that we're vaccinated and hoping to maybe leave the house again, I'm back on Urban Sitter and remembering just how frustrated I've been with it, and with trying to find decent occasional sitters in general. It's not that there aren't good sitters on the platform. There are, and we've even had some of them sit for us. But inevitably as soon as we think we've found a great one that sitter either gets a full time nanny gig and stops doing part time sitting, or leaves the area, or is just constantly booked because other parents realize what they've found. And we've had a lot of sketchy experiences, too. Lately I have felt like bay area babysitting rates are SO high and the demand is SO high that a lot of these people don't have to try very hard -- and don't. 

    And lest you think I'm just stingy and don't want to pay a fair wage, let me assure you that is not the case. I was a babysitter as a teen and a nanny all through college. Not to mention I'm now a mom -- I KNOW it's hard work! For someone whom my kids love and that I trust implicitly? Highest bay area sitter rate, no problem. But I haven't found that. Instead I'm paying very high rates for people that aren't awesome, out of desperation. 

    I'm starting to think it would be better to hire someone with much less experience, like a teenager. Because I'm absolutely willing to train someone, and a lot of my child care needs these days are for help when I'm going to be nearby either working remotely or working on home projects. Back when I was a teenage babysitter I worked for my neighbors. Well, I have no immediate teenage neighbors. Nor do I know anyone with teenage kids. Is there a local chapter of "The Babysitter's Club" I should know about? How does one find the babysitters who are just starting out?

    A second approach I've thought of is to commit to a certain amount of hours a week, find someone to fill that role and hope that that makes them more amenable to taking on more hours occasionally when stuff comes up. Obviously I couldn't expect that person to always be free. The hope would be just that they'd be more likely to say yes given that they'd know the kids and their routines rather than being at the other end of the Urban Sitter connection reading a profile. 

    Any of you going through something similar? Or do you have a list of awesome sitters you rotate through? Tell me your secrets, please!

    Writing just to sympathize.  My kids (2 years apart) are in school now, but when they were young I worked at home part time and it was so hard to find any kind of babysitter.  Basically, most people available during the day are understandably looking for full-time nanny gigs.  Or are they are between things - looking for their "real" job, in school, etc. etc..- so they end up disappearing.  We had a very bad experience with Urbansitter and really good experiences with the now-defunct Swiss Cheese Childcare.  Both your ideas are good - hopefully if you put the word out during the summer you can find a teenager that you can train, but remember that school around here starts in mid-august; a college student might be a better bet.  I think your idea of guaranteeing a number of hours is a good idea too but I don't know what the market/demand for part-time nannies is like these days.  Good luck! 

    When my son was younger, we had a "nanny" for one summer who was a recent college grad. She was super sweet and ended up staying with us for a week or so in between apartments and then I got her a "real" job with a friend's nonprofit. We loved her. I think we found her via NextDoor. You could also try to post to the UC Berkeley job board.

    I would suggest that you post on Nextdoor for a teenager. My teenage daughter found several families close by that she babysat for throughout high school. She generally responded to parents who posted, as I was worried about letting her post and then sending my 15 year old to a stranger’s house, but I know some teens post for themselves that they are available.

  • I moved to Oakland from Mendocino a few years ago after my husband and I were engaged.  We now have a 21-month old boy, and I am overwhelmed by the prospect of finding occasional childcare for him.  Coming from a small town, there is a certain kind of accountability that exists that I haven't found here at is a lot easier to find like-minded families that you know and trust that if they recommend someone, you can be sure that person is trustworthy because if they weren't, the whole town would know.

    Maybe I'm old-fashioned, but finding childcare online through recommendations of people I haven't met is not something I feel comfortable with.  However we are at a point where I feel my son can benefit from spending time with someone aside from my husband and I, we could use a date night every now and again, and I would absolutely love to take a yoga class once/week!  I haven't found a community of parents I connect with here at all, even though we go to different parks and activities almost every single day.  So I have nobody else to ask.

    Any advice or recommendations would be greatly appreciated.

    How about part-time toddler preschool? Two or three mornings a week, maybe a coop where you volunteer one day a week. We liked Teeter Tots in El Cerrito for that age, Berkeley has something similar, maybe Oakland does too.

    You could try joining a gym that does yoga classes and has a crèche on-site where you can put your child eg Bladium in Alameda. That would ease you (and him) in and from there you might be able to ask the people who work in the crèche if they do babysitting or if they could recommend someone. Or ask friends? Or even do babysitting swaps with friends. I too wouldn't risk using someone who isn't recommended by someone I know. 

    There is an organization called Swiss Cheese Childcare that I have tried once and they have vetted and background checked babysitters, but it's really expensive. 

    Hello,I live in Oakland too. If you haven't done yet, try facebook groups. There's Oakland 2015/2016 babies group that I am part of. There's also childcare  subgroups under mamahood eastbay. And you're right it's so difficult for me to trust a babysitter without having recommendations from others too! So let me know what you got. I can recommend someone too if she's still available. 

Archived Q&A and Reviews

I just moved here - how can I find a babysitter I can trust?

March 2013

Hi all of you helpful people! We are new to California - just moved to the Montclair area of Oakland - and have no friends or family here. We would like to find a trustworthy babysitter, just for our adult nights out every once in a while, to watch our 3 year old. But we don't know anybody that can provide a referral - our neighbors don't have kids (or have grown kids), our co-workers don't either, etc. There are sometimes listings on the BPN newsletter for babysitters, but we still aren't sure they are people we could trust. Any advise or resources out there you folks know of that could help us? How do we best find a Friday-night type of babysitter that is capable, honest, trustworthy, etc?
Thanks very, very much!

We were in the same situation. We waited, figuring eventually we'd find someone's through referrals but finally took the plunge when our need for alone time won out over our fear. We found someone here on BPN, asked her for an interview, called her references and set up a time for her to watch our daughter. We set up a short time period, stayed local and came home early. And yes-were nervous the entire time. But I'm so glad - she's wonderful! She's a nanny during the day, a little older (not the college or highschool age kid), and extremely reliable. It's been a year and we're very happy with her and hopefully won't have to find anyone else again. Shannon

Start looking where the kids are - nearby preschools or elementary schools or after school programs. Ask if they have a bulletin board or email newsletter you can post on. Often you'll find that there's staff who are looking for the odd sitting job, or someone has a favorite sitter who wants more clients, etc. Mom of Two
We joined a Mom's group and there was a babysitting co-op as part of the group. That worked great for us. Later after we made some close friends, we did ''swap-sits'' with them. One night one family would watch all the kids and the other parents went out and then another night we'd swap. Our kids are 16 now and we never used a babysitter. We felt much more comfortable with a parent we knew watching them. -parent of teens
You could try I believe you have to pay to become a member (my husband's work pays for it) but I recently found a great (so far) sitter on there. Most of them don't necessarily come pre-screened but I got references from the candidates and probably found at least 3 or 4 that I would have been happy with.
We have used and like It does cost a nominal fee, but you can get a lot of good information about the babysitters on that site. We also get the babysitter to come over several times while we stay at the house and do other things to get a feel for the babysitter. anon
Try your local YMCA, or Sitter city. Make sure that she is trust line certified, CPR first aid and Spend time with her and the kids. T. P

Hi, as a person who has worked in childcare for many years, I can tell you how people have found me and how they screened me as a babysitter or nanny. Generally they posted on BPN what they were looking for, for example: occasional babysitting for baby/child that is X months/years old. Saturday nights, generally 6-9pm. Their neighborhood location, and anything else that is relevant (we have a dog, we live in a tiny apartment, we are right near the 65 bus line, etc). I replied with an email about who I am, my experience, background, and training. They emailed me, maybe asked a few follow up questions, then asked if I could meet them for an interview. They usually ask me to bring my references with me to the interview.

Families either have me come to their home or a nearby cafe for the first meeting. They ask questions, let me ask questions, and such. I provide them with my list of references, which they later call. Then I hear back from them that they'd like me to come babysit, am I available on Saturday next week?

I've met some great families this way and developed long term relationships with them. I've also met some great families because happy clients told their friends about me (with my permission) and the friends called me. If you have friends in the area, or neighbors with kids who seem cool, ask them if they know of anyone who does occasional babysitting.

Advice: don't ask the babysitter/nanny for references before s/he gets a chance to meet you - we need to screen you just as you screen us. I dont want to give out my clients' names and numbers to someone I havent met and determined is a likely future client. It's important for me to respect my current clients. This has only rarely been requested by potential clients, but I think it's important for parents to understand.

Good things to look for: ideally the person works in a legitimate job with children that requires fingerprinting and a background check. Or has been checked through an agency that does this. Experience with the age of your child. At least some training in child development. More experience than just raising their own child - childcare involves working with clients, the parents, and not just doing things your own way. And working with just one child is very limited experience. I hope this is helpful. K M

Hi Kim. We also live in Montclair (not sure which side you're on, but we're up the hill from Thornhill school). Our current nanny, whom we love, might be willing to take on extra babysitting, although she often stays late with us on Friday evenings. We also love love LOVE having our teenage neighbor babysit. She is wonderful with the kids, is very responsible, and cleans up everything. She has a lot of babysitting gigs already but would probably take on more. I don't want to post the name/contact info of either of these people, but feel free to e-mail me off list if you'd like. Tamara

Ready for a date night but don't know anyone we can trust

Feb 2006

I am trying to figure out how to start having an evening social life again with out my kids (almost 3 and 7mo olds) We so far have only trusted good friends with our kids but these are adults with jobs and lives and sometimes kids. Needless to say its not working out so well. My husband and I hard ever go out. What do we do? Are there trusted nannies that babysit? How do we find someone and actually trust them if they are someone new to us? Help! House bound lisa

Figure out what you want, questions you want to ask. Bananas (located on Claremont) is a GREAT resource for all kinds of hand-outs on ALL kinds of childcare issues. Place an ad on the Childcare forum, or look in the files at Bananas, stating what you're looking for. Maybe join forces with another family or two so you can all rotate on one evening sitter and get each other's opinions. When you find someone you like on the phone, ask for references, call them. Have the sitter come to your house for a casual interview/hanging out/meeting the kids time. Have the first paid sitting session be while you're in the house - you and your husband should ''be busy''(clean a closet, do some gardening, tackle a project, etc.) while the sitter is the primary ''go to'' person for your kids. If all is good, have the first time you are out of the house be short - a walk, a cup of coffee, a browse in a bookstore. No one says you should just jump into the deep end. Mama

Hello, Moving to a life that includes the words, ''social life'' is very exciting... Having both a babysitter, nanny and as a parent I see how hard this step is for you. And know that there are people out there who just treasure children and can take very wonderful care of your little treasure while you go out.

The first things is to really just keep your eyes open. I mean at the park, market or wherever you can meet friendly folks who seem engaged with your child. See if they are interested in occasional childcare and then see if they want to come over (when you are there too) and have a little play time date. This way the best judge your little one and your gut can have the time to adjust to one another and see if it is a good fit. Of course this time should be paid for as this is most respectfull of any babysitters' time.

I know that other will post these suggestions too but Craigslist, here at BPN and also Bananas all have posts/referals for babysitters.

You could see about doing a swap with some other friends, families and parents using a system of points to keep everyone covered for their respective nights out.

Last but not least posting to the areas mentioned above as to what you are looking for will help draw the ''Mary Poppins'' you might be looking for. I found that places like Mills College have many eager babysitters who are also in school to learn early childhood education and would be a great resourse too.

All in all this is good for you and your family to have adult time makes for a much healthier and happier mommy, wife and human. Good luck! Mother to 19 month old boy

This is always a tough one for parents, leaving your child with a complete stranger and trusting that the caregiver will take good care of you child. Friends and family are one option (which sounds like you've already tapped). Another option is to ask around for a recommendation, maybe a friend or acquaintance with children can recommend a babysitter? Then interview any potential sitters. Then the first time they watch your children, you don't really go out. Rather you stick around to see how everyone interacts with each other. Or if you feel comfortable with how things are goign, maybe go out for a short time to get a coffee or something.