With the names and numbers of competent, reliable and trusted childcare guarded like social security numbers amongst parents, it can be ridiculously challenging to find a sitter for your children. What I was actually looking for was a harem of sitters, so that one of them was bound to be available when I needed. I was sick of being at the mercy of the schedules of virtual strangers. I was tired of sourcing and vetting referrals for second tier recommendations from "friends" and other moms I met.
I also had a pretty stringent list of qualities and qualifications I wanted my sitter to have. I wanted someone who would really actively play with my kids, not just park them in front of the T.V. I needed someone who could lay down the law when and if necessary but also have fun. I wanted a sitter with experience with kids the same age as mine, and who lived close by with their own transportation. They had to be OK with dogs, cleaning up after meals and activities (you'd be surprised how many people don't do this!) and executing the bedtime routine. It was also important to me that they were a non-smoker and CPR certified because boys.
I placed my ad on Care.com easily, ticking off all these qualities. Really, it's sorta like writing a dating profile. You put out there what you want and hope you attract it back. And I attracted many more sitter candidates than I ever did dating candidates! I was overwhelmed by responses for a regularly scheduled date night and after school sitter. So. Many. Responses. I was thrilled. Certainly I would find who I was looking for with 30+ emails in my inbox! This would be like shooting fish in a barrel!
And while I did have a ton of options, I didn't have a ton of options who'd carefully read my ad. And, truthfully, responding accurately to my ad (asked them to tell me why they were right for this job, not just babysitting) is the very first step in my screening process. While I totally understand that many people provide babysitting services as a side gig and pick up jobs piecemeal, I was a little disappointed in how many potential sitters responded who didn't read my ad. Some were quite persistent, sending multiple emails, and I felt obligated to tell them why they weren't a fit. For most people it was a matter of geography. They were great but just too far away to be reliable and I was afraid if they found a job closer to home it'd be history.
However I was able to chat with several people via the site's email feature which was enormously helpful. I like too that when a candidate responds to your posting it includes their picture, profile and reviews. Since you're able to put the rate you're willing to pay in the ad, you also get people who in theory are comfortable being paid that rate. Anything that removes that awkward rate talk in person is a huge bonus.
Another huge plus in my book was that Care.com offers a feature that lets you pay your sitter through the site. Genius! I never even have enough cash on me and the last thing I want to do after a night out is find my checkbook. Also through the site you can simply with the click of your mouse schedule an in-person or phone interview. The streamlined features of the site make the process as easy as it can be choosing someone to care for your spawn while you're away, and that makes it worth the price of membership.
I responded to several candidates and engaged in some back and forth. Care.com allows you to see their references and their background check right on their profile page. There's more of a feeling, real or perceived, of security here than just hiring a random person through a friend, or (gasp!) Craiglist. I did end up hiring a sitter who was with us for more than a year through Care.com, as well as a couple of other one off sitters who subbed in. While it definitely took some learning (hint: you don't have to respond to every person, especially if they didn't take the time to make sure they're right for the position!) the process overall was simple. The interface is easy to understand and use. There is a wide range of well-qualified sitters and other help.
I would recommend the site to help you in your search for care, whether child, animal or elderly. Some tips: Take the time to really craft your ad and be realistic about what you're looking for. Definitely be realistic about who your child is. If you have a girl who loves crafts or a boy who adores Minecraft (or vice versa) don't be shy about including that. If you need someone who can enforce bedtime rules, put that in. If you only care about your kid having the best time ever than by all means express that. Put all your bucket list items in for your dream sitter. Send that Mary Poppins ad up the chimney. You're bound to find someone who meets most if not all of what you're looking for on Care.com.
Please note: I was compensated with a one month membership to the site. However, I had used it on my own four times prior. Also, I can't be bought and all opinions are my own. Duh.