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Babysitters / home childcarers - childcare options

Part-time home childcare or a regular babysitter can be an option for those not requiring a full nanny service


Posted: 23 August 2010
by Maria Muennich

Babysitters - part-time childcare in your own home

Unlike a childminder, a babysitter or home child carer looks after your baby or children mainly in your own home. Unlike a nanny, a babysitter cares for children in their spare time, rather than as a career. He or she may be pursuing studies for example, or already be retired. Accordingly a babysitter works far fewer hours than a nanny - usually just for a few hours a few times a week, and so makes sense only for those working part-time, or for those who need a little extra support at certain times of the week, such as before or after-school care.

As a babysitter cares for children in your home she doesn't, by law, have to register with the government's childcare register list, or have any childcare qualifications. The level of experience a babysitter has can also vary widely, and some may be retired from a career incolving children or have a grown-up family of their own.

Pros

  • A babysitter looks after children in your own home, so you don't have to get them ready and take them somewhere before you go to work
  • Your child is looked after in familiar surroundings
  • A babysitter can take your child to local babygroups / playgroups etc. where you may usually take him/her
  • A babysitter will often be available to babysit in the evenings, perhaps on a regular basis. Your child will then already be familiar and comfortable with her evening babysitter
  • A babysitter can be a relatively inexpensive option
  • An arrangement with a babysitter may be quite flexible, which can be great if you work flexible or varying hours yourself, and/or work from home or require only occasional help
  • Some babysitters will have previously worked as childcare professionals or have a grown-up family of their own and so may be very experienced and well-qualified
  • Establishing a relationship with a babysitter can be a good idea to give you extra flexibility and support even if you have other childcare - she may be able to offer occasional cover if your regular childcarer falls ill, for example

Cons

  • A babysitter may not have any formal childcare qualifications and their level of experience can vary greatly
  • As a result of the above, a babysitter isn't usually an option for a very young baby, and may well only be suitable for caring for one child during the day (depending on her experience)
  • A babysitter will usually only be available for a few hours, a few times a week (although you may be able to negotiate exceptions), so this is only really a suitable option for those working part-time or requiring a relatively small amount of extra support per week
  • As this isn't her main career, the flexibility of an arrangement with a babysitter can work both ways, which may not suit you if you require reliably regular childcare. A babysitting student may want more flexibility than a retiree, for example, so do ask
  • Compared with a nanny or childminder, it may be more likely that a babysitter is only available for a limited amount of time (particularly in the case of students). Do ask about future plans and intentions if you are concerned about continuity of care
  • As babysitters don't have to be registered with the childcare list, you will have to conduct any background and reference checks yourself
  • Unlike a nanny, a babysitter is usually responsible only for the actual care of your children, and not for preparing their meals or doing any of the related household jobs

Finding a babysitter

One of the best ways to find a babysitter is through personal recommendation - do ask friends and family with children if they know anyone who may be suitable.

Some online directories for nannies and childminders may also list babysitters / home childcarers, but remember that they don't necessarily carry out any checks on the people on their lists, so you will have to carry out reference checks and any background checks yourself. Fees for such services vary - you may have to pay nothing, but for some services you may have to pay a regular fee or a booking fee for access to the directory of babysitters - you will pay more where a vetting service is offered (but always check exactly what any vetting service entails and follow up with your own personal checks).

Interview a potential babysitter / home childcarer in the same way that you would a nanny (but adjusting your expectations accordingly), allowing plenty of time for the interview and giving time to see how the babysitter relates to your child, and how s/he reacts to them.

Return to our guide to childcare.


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