Background checks on babysitters just a click away

May 6, 2013 8:43:12 AM PDT
Finding a babysitter you can trust with the safety of your child can be challenging. Now many parents are turning to the internet to find a sitter. 7 On Your Side's Michael Finney checks them out.

Finding a good restaurant on Yelp and booking it through Open Table is easy and you're not really risking anything, but booking a babysitter online requires more research. Luckily, most babysitter-for-hire sites do offer background checks, but do you know what you're getting?

Aylin Yaser is a working mom from Fairfax and uses Care.com to find her sitters.

"I didn't use a background check, I just felt reassured that it was there. I went with calling references and reading reviews, and ultimately I went with my gut," she said.

Parents in the United States spend about $120 billion on childcare each year and many are turning to the internet for help.

Andrea Barrett is a co-founder of UrbanSitter.com

"There are 300 million babysitting bookings happening not necessarily online but in the United States every year," she said.

On most babysitter-for-hire sites, a sitter posts their profile and then it is up to an interested family to check the candidate's background.

The three biggest sites are Care.com, UrbanSitter.com and SitterCity.com. They all provide free babysitter searches, but most do charge extra for a background check.

The fees for these background checks will range, anywhere from $25 to $150.

All of these sites will extensively check public record databases for driving records and criminal convictions. They will share the detailed results with customers. However, some experts believe these sites may not go far enough.

"The only resource in the state of California that actually has complete access to the California criminal history check, the FBI and the child abuse history is TrustLine.org," said TrustLine's Marybeth Phillips.

Phillips helped found TrustLine, the state funded background check and certification for caregivers.

She pushed for it in the 1980's after her babysitter shook her child so hard she was blinded.

"I know that TrustLine has protected a lot of kids because we've caught them before they were with those kids," said Phillips.

TrustLine is the only service that checks the Child Abuse Central Index. It's a database of abuse investigations in California and only law enforcement agencies have access to it.

Getting TrustLine certified costs the caretaker $135; it takes about 2 weeks and requires a social security number and fingerprint.

TrustLine is free to parents and the report will only tell the parent whether an applicant is cleared or not. Heather Marchant is a sitter on seekingsitters.com.

"I went through extensive background checks and spoke with a private investigator on the phone, they got to really know me before they recommended me on their website to families," she said.

The Oklahoma-based seekingsitters.com recently launched in the Bay Area. The company does a background check and hires private investigators to review the information.

Stacy Bushong has twins and chose seeking sitters.

"Referrals through other people are fantastic but if you don't know those people well, it is nice to have someone who has actually done a full background screening on the people who are going to be watching your children," she said.

Barrett says no matter what site a parent chooses, every parent needs to be comfortable with the results.

"For some people that is TrustLine, background checks, all of the above. For some parents they feel more comfort with reviews from other parents," she said.

Remember, background checks don't always predict future behavior. A background check is only one tool that can be used to determine if an individual should or shouldn't be working with children.

Other things to take into consideration include: education, experience, skills, an interview with the individual, reference checks and an observation of the individual with your children.

All the sites in this story are listed on our website.


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