A Nanny’s Advice to Parents, Part 2: Looking For a Babysitter Online

There is an updated version of this post, as of August 2013!

This is a nanny’s Sittercity review (vs Care.com):

This itty picture with that yellow "Background Check" badge is what you see when I show up in a Sittercity.com search. Nice, right?

This itty picture with that yellow “Background Check” badge is what you see when I show up in a Sittercity.com search. Nice, right?

I highly recommend that you join this growing movement. In some cases, it will work better than hiring your neighbor’s fifteen-year-old cousin. Because while hiring someone who is related to your awesome neighbor sounds comforting, you still don’t actually know her yourself. If you do, that’s awesome! But what happens when she graduates from high school? I know you don’t want to think about it. But consider your online options for a moment. Chances are, you will find yourself in need of a new babysitter eventually.

The online sitter search has come a long way. The two sites I use are now both providing background check services for very reasonable fees (paid by the sitters). My favorite, Sittercity, has also just started providing a driver’s license check, too. They will tell you if the license is real and if the driver has a clean record! I love being able to prove, definitively, that I have no criminal record at all and that I have never even been given a speeding ticket. I may have a less than stellar record when it comes to parking in the right place at the right time, but I’m a very safe driver. Even if I won’t be driving kids around for a particular job, I like what that says about me. I don’t take stupid risks when it comes to safety. Not even when I’m the only person in the car. Isn’t that a nice quality in someone who cares for children? I think so. Anyway, the background checks are awesome because at both Sittercity and Care.com, sitters run the checks ourselves. They expire every nine months or so. At Sittercity, you’ll see a yellow badge right on my picture that says “BGC”! And, they list sitters with background checks first in parents’ search results.

I’m going to tell you about Sittercity and Care.com from my perspective because you won’t actually get to see what a babysitter sees when she logs in. The two halves of the sites are kept quite separate. (I have no idea what parents’ pages look like, really.)


I hate using this site. I use it because parents are there, but I don’t like using it at all. It’s not well-organized. But recently, they took what I consider to be an evil turn. Here, I’ll just show you:

See those “subscription” options for $20, $40 or $60/month? (If not, click on the photo to see it full-size.) That means that the featured babysitters parents see have been featured because they pay the website to feature them. I repeat: the care providers that parents see first have paid for the privilege. I’ve never seen anything like this anywhere else. I think it’s criminal. I don’t mind paying for a background check. They run between $8-$20, depending on the site. I DO mind paying to advertise my services on a site that is supposed to already do that! It’s shady and I don’t like it.

In contrast, the only time Sittercity has asked me for $60 is to pay for their new Enhanced Background Check. And I understand that price. They advertise having an actual person sift through actual documents to make sure there’s nothing a person might find that the LexisNexus search failed to turn up. I can’t afford the Enhanced check and that doesn’t seem to be getting in the way of me getting a job. I’m still being contacted by parents and am still receiving warm responses from the parents I contact. But if a parent wanted to pay to have that done, I’d be more than happy to do it. Because they would be paying for an actual service. One that turns up actual information. One that explains where the money is going!

But there are other reasons for a parent to go with Sittercity. I hear that it’s a bit more expensive. Here’s what you’re getting, from my point of view:

A higher-quality search. I repeat: the sitters you see “featured” at Sittercity are at the top of the list because the company has run background checks to make sure that we are who we say we are and that we have no criminal records. Not so over at Care.com.

Higher-quality sitter profiles. It took me forever to write up that profile. I don’t know how much of it parents see, but they seem impressed. If my profile impresses it is because the website asked me a gazillion questions about everything under the sun, and I chose to answer thoughtfully. Knowing that something is going to take a long time anyway makes a person more likely to give a thoughtful answer when a short-answer-type question appears amid all the checkboxes. (There is a checkbox for every hobby, every “special need”, every type of experience, every type of training.)

One category for babysitters and another for nannys. When they first did this, I was kind of annoyed that I had to fill out a whole new profile before I would be able to even see any of the jobs listed in the nanny section. Why does this matter? If you are looking for someone to care for your child for, say, 30 hours a week, it’s an entirely different process, emotionally. You deserve to see only those sitters who actively choose to pursue work as a full-time child care provider. I can’t imagine how frustrating it would be, especially in a college town like where I live, to fall in love with a profile only to see that she’s available for evening and weekend babysitting only. From my end, it seems like parents easily get overwhelmed while they’re looking for a nanny; I think the two separate profiles/categories might help with that. I don’t even search the nanny listings if I can’t give up to 50 hours a week and commit to a long-term relationship with a family.

There are multiple types of care listed on each site, even though both are most famous for babysitter searches. Tutoring, pets, housekeeping and senior care are both listed at Sittercity.com and at Care.com, but only Sittercity requires that you fill out a profile for each type of care. This makes perfect sense to me. Whatever I write in the babysitter profile is not going to be applicable to a housekeeping job! Probably not even for a tutoring job. And pets? Also, I find it a little insulting to seniors that I can use my babysitter profile at Care.com to go look for work spending time with adults. It seems to me that babysitting and senior care might be slightly different experience, requiring slightly different personalities, talents, etc.

Sittercity is also active on Facebook and Twitter, and there’s always a lot of discussion happening on that Facebook page. The site itself is clean and easy to use. It’s free for babysitters and parents have to pay, which makes much more sense to me than Care.com’s backwards approach. I’m looking for work as a nanny! Clearly, I do not have lots of money! Parents don’t have lots of money, either, but they are at least already budgeting some of what they do have towards this process.

One final thought: both sites offer reviews, but Care.com has been pushing this feature like crazy in TV ads. I wish the whole concept would just go away. I am not an appliance. I am not an iPhone app. Call my references if you want a “review” of the quality of care I provide. Ask them how many times I was late or cancelled. Anonymous reviews on the internet are not exactly the most reliable source of information. I don’t even trust them when I’m buying a book! I trust people I know who have read the book! And I AM NOT A BOOK. I am a person. I do not want to be summed up in a number of stars like a product. Please join me in boycotting the use of this insulting tool. And props to Sittercity for promoting the safety stuff (they offer more kinds of background checks and promote that feature like crazy) over those meaningless stars.

Well, I hope that helps! Please, if you have any questions about what these sites look like from a babysitter’s point of view, fire away!

*Note: this is an unsolicited review. I have not been paid by any service mentioned here to write anything about them ever. If, as you read this, there is an ad for one of these companies on my blog, well, that happened after. As I write this, there are no ads. There is no connection between me and the companies other than that I use their services to find work as a child care provider.

**Update in the interest of full disclosure: As of 6/27/2013, I now receive compensation from Sittercity for any parent who signs up for an account using the links in this post. This lovely company (they are always so nice!) contacted me, because so many of you are heading over to their site after reading this post. I wrote this over 18 months ago, and would never have known about the affiliate program (getting paid when people sign up) without the email from their representative. That means that the opinions, which I have not edited since I published this originally in January 2012, remain 100% my own.


  1. Joe says

    Wow, thanks. This is very insightful and helpful. Do you have any perspectives on the regional differences between these services? I live in the SF Bay Area and have found this market to be somewhat unique, to say the least.

    • says

      When you sign up for a 30 day Care.com membership, you think that it expires in 30 days, right? Nope, it’s a scam. If you read the VERY SMALL print, you realize that you are actually agreeing to a monthly subscription, for which your credit card will be automatically charged. This practice is actually illegal in some states. When I finally realized how much I was being charged (long after I stopped using the website), they stood by their practice of scamming people and would not reimburse me. Being in the business of childcare, I would assume that being ethical and establishing trust with your customer is a priority. Care.com has failed miserably in this domain. Do not fall victim to this scam!

      • Paul says

        It’s not a “scam”, it’s standard practice for many subscription websites. Heck, even many gyms automatically renew memberships. Seems like you’re miffed because you forgot to contact them when you no longer needed the service and got charged for a few more months.

        • Anne-Marie says

          I have to agree with Paul on this one. It feels scammy to list “preferred sitters” based on who has paid a site more money to be featured, but renewing a subscription automatically is pretty standard.

  2. Julie says

    Your review sounds re-assuring. I am a sitter, and am interested in information about how much a site, i.e., Sittercity, might keep you working. I don’t want to sign up for a number of sites, when they actually have too many sitters already. I would be signing up for the “sitter” portion, not the “nanny” part.

    Julie from San Diego

    • says

      Hi Julie! Good luck with your job search! The number of sitters on a site really depends on where you are located. There are usually more parents on sites that have more sitters, however, and I always got more jobs from Sittercity both in New York City and in Connecticut. I’m not sure whether San Diego tends towards one site or the other, but I would guess that there’s a lot of overlap. I do know that the Los Angeles area tends to use the “sitter” part of Sittercity for one-time jobs, like weddings and other events, while the “nanny” section has more regular hours. But San Diego is not LA, so you’ll have to give it a try and see!

  3. says

    The auto-renewing subscription employed by Care.com is in violation of California SB 340, which took effect on December 1, 2010. The California Negative Option Law was specifically implemented to end the practice of ongoing charging of consumer credit cards without the consumers’ explicit consent. Care.com is inviolation of multiple aspects.
    A copy of the Legislation is readily available at http://www.leginfo.ca.gov. (“Business and Professions Code Section 17600-17606”)
    Many states in addition to California have implemented similar legislation.
    Specific violations include:
    (c): “Clear and conspicuous”…means in lager type than the surrounding text…”
    The copy of the webpage provided by the merchant readily shows that the type referring to automatic renewal is not larger than the surrounding text.
    (a) (1): “It shall be unlawful for any business making an automatic renewal or continuous service offer to a consumer in this state to…fail to present the automatic renewal offer terms or continuous service offer terms in a clear and conspicuous manner…”
    The wording used by Care.com is not compliant with “clear and conspicuous”. The term “subscription” is generally reserved for the purchase of ongoing services, not a single purchase, therefore customers purchasing “1-month” are not purchasing a “subscription”. “Subscription” is located under the “3-Month” and “12-Month” plans (“subscriptions”). Because a customer purchasing “1-month” is not purchasing a “subscription”, the automatic renewal plan is not invoked.
    Unfortunately, Care.com is the subject of literally hundreds of similar complaints. It would behoove them to ammend current business practices in accordance with the law.

    • Keli Amparan says

      Unfortunately SitterCity does the exact same thing, makes you think you’re buying a one month subscription only to find out you’re being charged monthly until you call and cancel!! They are just as guilty and if you google reviews you’ll find that a lot of people have been scammed by them!

  4. Tess says

    I recently signed up for care.com and sitter city as a nanny. After soo many care.com commercials I signed up there first thinking parents would be more inclined to go there — I was shocked that they wanted $25 for me to be “FEATURED” — after viewing “featured” profiles – I noticed some had A LOT less experience, without reviews and references.

    I had already paid for the background check there, but it’s a lot of fees/costs they want to put your profile higher on the searches.

    After spending an hour writing the best wording for my profile (which has to be “approved” by care.com – I shocked to see they CHANGED my wording without any reason (I had no errors or unallowable text) – just because they wanted to change my sentencing around.

    My advice is to go with sittercity

    • Cyndi says

      I am a nanny in Santa Barbara trying to find a reputable agency to work with.

      I want to thank everyone in our business for this blog and their postings. It has been very helpful!

      Basically it affirmed my gut feeling and further research that care .com is not a company I want to trust either with my personal information or my credit card !!!

      Thank you Anne-Marie!

  5. Bridget says

    Over the past few years I have used both care.com and sittercity. In our area, we tend to see the same care providers on both sites so after a year I discontinued care.com which is more expensive. Regardless, I strongly encourage people to be protective of their privacy. Be VERY cautious during the interview process. Do a preliminary interview by phone, not just email. If that goes well, then meet in a public place. And always, always check references. So far we have met two great sitters and an awesome dog sitter. But we have also run into quite a few flakes.

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  7. Zamira says

    Thank you for helpful information! I have used care.com and had a negative impression as a parent looking for a nanny. Will definitely go with sittersity.

  8. Raya says

    Just want to make a comment regarding reviews. We used sitterycity to hire our nanny. She seemed awesome and had a connection with the kids. The references she provided raved about her and how reliable she was (who would provide references that would say anything negative?). Her background check and driving record were clean. She was amazing with the kids and had an instant bond. She took a week vacation after a month that we had discussed when hiring her. She also took two sicks days. After three months, she urgently texted me an hour before she was supposed to be there on Monday and said she’d need the week off because she had a family emergency and had to leave the state. She later texted me saying she was at her family’s home out of state and would have to quit to move back home and could “help out” the following week but that would be it. Later that day she posted a picture on Instagram having lunch on her own at restaurant very much in the same city. She continuously posted pictures that week still in our city. I had to take leave without pay while we looked for a replacement. She also hasn’t returned my repeated texts asking for my keys back. I went back to Sittercity to repost our job, randomly clicked on her profile which hadn’t been active since she started working with us, and there was a review from a former family that describled the exact same scenario, down to not returning the keys. Obviously if this review was on there before I hired her, I wouldn’t have even interviewed her. Later that day her procfile was deleted, presumably when she logged in to start looking for jobs and saw the negative review. Totally understand that you’re not an appliance, and that anonymous reviews aren’t always accurate, but when you’re hiring a stranger to watch your children, you want to have as much information as possible.

    • says

      If everyone did reviews, and sitters were allowed to review families, I would agree. But it remains pretty unfair, because not many families go online to leave reviews unless they’re motivated by a bad experience. The benefit of hindsight lets you know that the review you read is accurate. I’m just pointing out that it’s a flawed system to introducing reviews without encouraging parents to write them to even remind us. I’ve found a sitter on Sittercity, as a parent now, and I’ve never been reminded to visit the site and leave a review.

      • Livy says

        I have read many reviews on these sites. Alot of them good. So I do Not believe only negative reviews will be left.

  9. Alli says

    I do like to use both Sittercity.com and Care.com, however there seems to be scams on both of those websites. I would want to be very careful when it comes to using those websites to find a babysitting/nanny job.

  10. Horrified Grandmother says

    I was horrified to see a particular woman listed on Sittercity offering babysitting services. This woman has serious mental issues and a lengthy criminal record. She has 3 children, all of whom have been taken away from her by the state. She is currently on probation and on a high-risk abuse watch list. I am wondering if Sittercity’s background check would reveal any of this important information to unsuspecting parents?

    • Anne-Marie says

      Yes! Oh my goodness! The last time I checked, you had two options, and I would think both would turn this up. The less expensive background check does a search through state criminal records. The more expensive search has a human being, rather than a computer, search through more records. I can’t remember which records exactly, but anyone who does a background check should see any convictions in your state. Call Sittercity for more info, or email; I’ve always had great experiences with their customer service.

  11. Emily says

    Thanks for the info! I think I’ll try sitter city. I have t had much success getting hired on care.com and after reading this I’m wondering if sitter city is best anyways. Worth a try!


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