Smart Start Sitters

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When our babysitter announced she was getting married and needed three weeks off, we panicked. We imagined scrambling to line up family and friends to help cover some childcare needs. Coincidently I received an email from a new babysitting service called Smart Start Sitters. I've heard of companies providing temporary help, but this one was different: They recruit sitters from child-centric locations such as early childhood development programs.

Before I signed on, I grilled Melody Rubie the owner of Smart Start. I wanted to know where she found her crew. Many of Melody's sitters are getting advanced digress or are college-educated artists who need supplemental income. Recruitment happens at the source. Melody travels to NYU, Columbia and other colleges to find sitters. She does a full background check and requires three babysitting references. After this initial screening, Melody then sits down with all her potential sitters and quizzes them on tricky situations.

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Next, Melody holds a "Sitter Workshop" where she trains all her employees to provide a consistent level of care. She stresses: cheerfulness, responsiveness, nurturing and more. After all the vetting, Melody goes to great lengths to match her sitters with the right families. I filled out a detailed questionnaire before I was matched. We needed someone energetic and eager to play dress up and dance. (Note: Smart Start is also happy to take on special needs families. She's got sitters with special medical training who are equipped to deal with a range of needs.)

Melody matched us with Joanna and we set up a time for Joanna to come and meet me at the house (before this, Melody sent me Joanna's profile). Our Smart Sitter was always prompt and polite. At our initial meeting I described the girls' personalities, routines and asked her how she would handle snacks, transitions and whining. She passed my test. On her first morning of sitting she showed up bright and eager. She jumped right in and fed my toddler Cheerios as I got ready to take my preschooler to drop off.

Joanna handled the day like a pro. A college graduate, her background is in music (she's auditioning for Broadway shows) so she was happy to sing and dance with my girls. A perfect match. She dressed neatly, but also in a manner that said she could plop on the floor without a problem.

I popped in and out on her first day and always felt comfortable with her in my home. My one criticism: I did notice that there were some dishes left over from the toddler's lunch, but the toys and books were stashed fairly neatly. We look forward to bringing Joanna back for other fill-in situations. I've found a great back up.

Interested? You might want the TRY ME packages. For a $50 fee you'll get matched with a sitter and three sessions within one month (hourly fees are extra).

Here's what else you need to know:

  • Bookings require a 4-hour minim
  • Rates start at $15 for one child and go up depending on the number of children and any special needs
  • All sitters have CPR and First Aid training
  • Payment is made via credit card or paypal at the time of booking--then you pay the sitter in cash
  • Manhattan is the service area for now, with some parts of Brooklyn


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