Most of us expats don't have family to rely on to babysit our children, and might not yet have built up a network in our neighbourhood. So who do you turn to when you need someone to look after them?
- word of mouth (yes, even if you're new!)
- Ligue des Familles' babysitter database
- other websites
And if you're looking for a babysitter specifically to look after your sick child during working hours:
Background checks on babysitters
While the Ligue des Familles, the Gezinsbond and your mutuelle will have carried out the necessary background checks on the babysitters you can find through their service, finding a babysitter through a website or a small ad will of course not provide the same reassurance. So how do you know who you are asking to look after your children? You could ask a babysitter to provide an 'extrait du casier judiciare' (formerly known as the 'certificat de bonne vie et moeurs')/'uittreksel uit het strafregister' from their commune, showing that (hopefully) they have no criminal record. Note that these certificates only remain valid for three months. You might also like to ask your babysitter for some references.
Rates can vary considerably, with the Ligue des Familles and Gezinsbond suggesting rates of EUR 5 and EUR 4 respectively per hour. However, rates of between EUR 7.50 and EUR 10 per hour are quite common for 'privately-sourced' babysitters.
You can't beat a personal recommendation for a babysitter, but what if you don't actually know who to ask? Well, here are some places you can turn:
- local (closed) Facebook groups like:
- the English Speaking Mums in Brussels, Belgium Facebook group (you need to request to join - and yes, it's for ALL parents, not just mums);
- if you're a BCT member, the BCT - Brussels Childbirth Trust Facebook group, or your local BCT group's Facebook page, if they have one (check with your group leader)
- if you've used Antenatal & Baby's service, the Antenatal & Baby Facebook group
- Several of the BCT local groups have babysitting circles for members. These usually work on a reciprocal arrangement with no money changing hands. The BCT operates these circles within local groups. Check your recent copy of the BCT's Smalltalk for information or ask your local leader for more information.
The francophone family association Ligue des Familles offers its members a searchable database of babysitters - available in English, French and German. Once logged onto the site, you simply enter the date, times, language preferred and post code, and the site provides a list of babysitters that meet your needs. For an extra fee of EUR 5, you can have the Ligue des Famille's Babysitting Team match you up to the best candidate and arrange the service.
Basic training is offered to all new babysitters who feature on the site, and refresher training is also provided, giving a certain level of reassurance to parents.
Babysitting services that are organised through the Ligue des Familles' service are covered by insurance (civil liability and personal injury insurance for the period of the babysitting service).
The Ligue des Familles recommends the following hourly rates
- Between 07:00 and 21:00: EUR 5/hour
- From 21:00: EUR 4/hour
- Fixed rate for overnight (between 00:00 and 08:00): EUR 20
A comprehensive website (only available in French for the moment) that helps you find whatever kind of childcare solution you need, whether babysitting, after-school care, Wednesday afternoons, extra help in the evenings, and even nanny services.
Easy to use, you enter your general needs, and can then search the database according to post code. Each babysitting/childminder has a page that gives information on their availabilities, experiences, interests, rates and a photograph.
The Dutch-speaking family association Gezinsbond offers a service to help you find a local babysitter. Like the Ligue des Familles service, they have good insurance cover and provide recommended rates:
- hourly fee: EUR 4/hour
- minimum fee: EUR 8/hour
- fixed rate for overnight (between 22:00 and 08:00 + breakfast): EUR 20
Some other websites that can help you find a babysitter are:
- classified ads on The Bulletin's website
- GreatAuPair: find babysitters, nannies, au pairs
- Quefaire.be or Wattdoen.be: French/Dutch (respectively) website that connects people looking for childcare with those interested in working in childcare.
Most mutuelles offer a childcare service if your child (from 3 months to 14 years) is too sick to go to daycare/school. Subject to certain conditions and availability, a qualified childminder will come to your home to look after your child.
The cost is around €3 per hour, and you can usually have 12 days per year per child, with a maximum of 10 hours per day, and 3 days per illness. Check with your own mutuelle for details.
The childminder only looks after your child - no other domestic tasks can be requested. In Brussels, demand for this service is very high, so you need to contact your mutuelle as soon as you know you will need the service. Depending on availability, it may be possible to arrange care for the following day.
Note that you will need to have a doctor's note stating that your child needs to be looked after.