INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — There are times you need a sitter in a pinch, but all of your regular babysitters aren’t available. So what do you do on short notice? It all depends on the amount of time you have to make something happen.
“I personally look for enthusiasm, professionalism, maturity,” says Katie Bugbee, mom of three children and Senior Managing Editor for Care.com, the world’s largest online destination for finding and managing family care, with 11 million families and 8.6 million caregivers as members.
Bugbee spoke with Daybreak’s Lauren Lowrey via Skype from her office near Boston, Mass.
“What I suggest parents always do is call references — and I know people might be looking for a sitter in a jiffy — but it’s not an Uber and you need to really vet this person,” says Bugbee.
Bugbee stresses the reference check, saying if you found a caregiver online, read all the accompanying reviews and contact some of their former families for insight. She also encourages “cold calling” the candidate to see where they are and what they are doing when they pick up.
“I want to see if they’re with kids when they answer the phone,” says Bugbee. “If they’re driving – especially with kids in the car – I’ll politely get off the phone and won’t call them again because I don’t want them talking on the phone when they’re with my kids.”
Bugbee also encourages spending money on a background check and driving record check. It costs about $80, depending on the company, and requires 24 hours to complete.Hiring young sitters
While online sites like Care.com and SitterCity.com request caregivers be at least 18 to log on, young teens with babysitting experience can be easy to find, too.
Each year 35,000 teens are educated through a program called Safe Sitter, founded and headquartered here in Indianapolis.
It was started in 1980 by pediatrician Patricia Keener after the accidental death of a nurse’s young child while in the care of an adult babysitter. Two weeks after the tragedy, Keener sought to create a program that taught even the youngest sitters — 11 to 13-year-olds about safety, first aid and choking rescue.
“We do train them how to react in a choking rescue situation with abdominal thrusts,” says Donna Willis-Brown, M,S.N., one of the program’s national trainers. “They would know how to save an infant with back blows and chest thrusts.”
The program even teaches young teens what age is most appropriate for them to babysit.
“Newborns and infants are really a challenging situation, so we encourage our kids to start watching preschool — 3, 4 and 5 — that’s a good age,” says Willis-Brown.
Safe Sitter offers three different courses: a 5.5 hour “Essentials” course, a 6.5 hour “Essentials, CPR” course and an “Expanded” course which lasts 11 hours and stretches over two days of training. The Expanded course gets into behavior management, First Aid and online safety.
“We do want kids to understand that when they accept a babysitting job,they accept the responsibilities of a child’s life and that’s really, really important,” says Willis-Brown.
Finding a young teen who has completed a Safe Sitter course is easy: just ask around your neighborhood or call one of the many class locations around Indianapolis.
If someone says they are certified in CPR or First-Aid, you can ask for their certificate. According to Duchess Adjei, M.S.C, Regional Communications Director for the American Red Cross, anyone who completes one of the Indianapolis-area certification courses now receives an electronic certificate that is valid for two years.
“Anything handwritten should alert the parent, or if it’s past the two year span, the parent should be concerned,” says Adjei.
If you still have questions, Adjei suggests asking questions to the caregiver like “what would you do if my child was choking” or “who would you call in that kind of emergency?”When you have less than 24 hours to find a sitter
Sometimes the “Murphy’s Law” of situations occurs and you have less than 24 hours to find care for your kids. In this case, babysitting services might be the way to go.
Sitters to the Rescue is an Indianapolis firm started by Nancy Reiter 21 years ago as a way to fill a need for high-quality, temporary childcare for children of all ages.
“I was thinking, ‘I have 2 daughters and I’m the most neurotic mom ever and what a great idea for me with my social work background and my being an overprotective mom to be able to interview sitters with my social work skills and start a business.'”
Sitters to the Rescue has a team of 25 sitters that have already been interviewed, background checked and vetted, who are ready to go at a moment’s notice.
“I wake up and my phone dings and it’s Nancy, ‘Can you be here in 45 minutes? So, you throw on a pony tail and head out,” says Paige Megenhardt, a long-time caregiver with Sitters to the Rescue. “[Parents] are very happy having somebody they feel good leaving their child with and knows they’ll be in good care.”
Aside from the in-home, last minute care, Sitter’s to the Rescue also babysits for large conventions in Indianapolis requiring upwards of 40 babysitters at a time.
“So we babysit for the Pacers during home games, we babysat for the Giants when they came to town,” says Reiter. “We do about 20 church events a month, about 10 special events like small weddings and conventions.”
Reiter calls care-giving a “high-risk” business, saying a single mistake could end her career.
“There’s nothing more important to most people than their child and I’m sending [sitters] unsupervised into somebody’s home, so I have to feel very comfortable with my sitters and I get to know my sitters really well.”
Mom of twin girls, Erin Roth, has been very comfortable with their service. Roth is an attorney for a company in Lafayette and commutes from Zionsville each day.
“I travel for work a lot as well,” says Roth. “Often times we have needs in the evening because my husband is an attorney as well and both of us can have long days and both of us can travel and sometimes be out of town at the same time. We both had an evening one time where both of us had to be out of the house and [Nancy] was able to find somebody and within an hour’s notice to get somebody there.”
Other services like Sitters to the Rescue exist in central Indiana: BabysitEase in Indianapolis started in 2014 and newcomer Sitting Made Simple which a Zionsville mom started this year. These services allow you to simplify the process and eliminate the headache of finding a babysitter yourself.
These services do cost more than your typical neighborhood babysitter. For example, the hourly rate for someone from Sitters to the Rescue is $23 an hour. Sitting Made Simple has rates that vary based on the amount of notice you give before you need care. Meanwhile, the rates from BabysitEase vary based on the type of help you need.
While the cost may be prohibitive, Roth says it’s worth it.
“It gets rid of a great deal of stress and you have enough stress in your life, so to not have that with it’s incredibly settling!”