Babysitter websites have taken off.
In the past three years the number of websites offering babysitting services to parents have grown exponentially.
There are only two main reasons for this.
1 More and more parents have had to go back to work and need extra childcare.
2 There are not enough nannies to go around. And those nannies that do exist charge such extortionate fees that childcare in the traditional sense has become too expensive.
So are parents putting their children at risk by utilising a part of the childcare sector that is not regulated in the same way as the nanny industry. After all, every professional whose work brings them in contact with children has to have a current CRB check.
The CRB check has been discussed ad-infinitum and it is not a panacea for all ills. In fact, today, parents are taking it upon themselves to do their own selection and checking of child carers.
In the past, before the advent of the internet based Babysitter Directory, parents would swop or share babysitters between them. Word of mouth was deemed to be a suitable method of selection. Unfortunately the original selection of the babysitter did not always or hardly ever included a background check into their criminal history or their over all suitability. In reality a friend, reluctantly, offered the services of this person they knew who would be happy to babysit.
I know that in the past we have interviewed someone as a domestic help, and then, very successfully, invited them to look after our children some time in the future. I suppose one could argue that having employed someone for a little while one should 'know' whether they are suitable. What about the domestic help we had to ask to leave because she turned out to be a thief?
For once I think the internet has enhanced the security of our children if a simple set of rules are followed.
Most websites ask their registered babysitters/nannies to fill out comprehensive profiles. Use the information in the profile to draw your own conclusions about their suitability.
Take any of this information offered by a prospective babysitter with a pinch of salt.
Check all references personally. I think a person to person telephone call is very important. The acceptance of a written referral is too easy to be fraudulently provided.
Ask to see any checks that they profess to hold such as current CRB checks etc.
If a babysitter has claimed to have child care or any related qualifications then definitely make sure you have seen these as well. There are many people in this world employed on the basis of non-existent educational qualifications.
Last, but not least, ask to see their passport. Is this person allowed to work in this country? If not then I would suggest that this is not the type of person one would want looking after your children. Even if the person can validly work here, take a photocopy or write down the passport number at least and keep it with their records.
In the end the choice will come down to whether you as a parent feel comfortable with this outsider. Allow them to get to know your children whilst you are in the house for the first and second times. Don't expect to leave your children with this new person straight away. They will need to get to know and trust them just as much as you do.
Parents who need to or wish to return to work whilst their children are too young to fend for themselves are having to put their faith in websites such as http://www.missmolly.co.uk. As long as a few simple precautions are take at the outset, then this should lead to a very happy solution. After all many families are improved with short periods of separation between parents and children.
Eldred Curwen is an Airline Pilot, married with two young children. Two years ago, whilst in Melbourne on holiday he realised that a website based babysitter directory had been established in Australia, but that none existed in the United Kingdom. MissMolly - The Babysitter Directory now has over 2000 registered babysitters throughout the UK and is growing daily.