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!)
- dedicated babysittings apps, websites and groups
- Ligue des Familles’ babysitter database
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 around EUR 8 per hour.
However, rates of EUR 10 to EUR 15 per hour are quite common for ‘privately-sourced’ babysitters.
Word of mouth
You can’t beat a personal recommendation for a babysitter, but what if you don’t actually know who to ask? Some places you might ask for recommendations include 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.
Dedicated babysittings apps, websites and groups
Two of the most popular babysitting apps/websites are:
- Bsit, which helps you find babysitters and childcare professionals known by your circle of friends – giving you added reassurance about who you’re leaving your kids with! It has a handy app that lets you easily post your query, and that you can also use to pay your babysitter (cash is fine too!)
- Babysits, which offers a transparent platform with reviews and references, a requirement for babysitters to provide a government ID and criminal record extract, secure payments, and secure messaging.
Both platforms operate a subscription model, where parents pay a monthly fee to use the services fully – the cost of the actual babysitting job is of course paid to the babysitter.
There is also the English speaking babysitters and activities for children in Brussels Facebook group, where babysitters can advertise their services, and families can share their needs. Remember that when finding a babysitter through a group like this, it’s worth asking for references (and even a criminal record check) if the person is a complete stranger.
Ligue des Familles babysitting service, HappySitting
The francophone family association Ligue des Familles offers its members a babysitting service, HappySitting (in French). Its babysitters are carefully selected and trained, with some babysitters following training to look after children with disabilities.
When you use the HappySitting service, the following are automatically covered by the service’s insurance:
- accidents that happen to your children while they’re under the responsibility of the babysitter;
- material damage to your home;
- physical accidents that happen to the babysitter in your home or on their way to or from you home.
For Ligue des Familles members, there’s no additional fee to use HappySitting – it’s included in the monthly subscription cost (around €6 per month – correct as of June 2023), for which you also get lots of other benefits and services.
Babysitters via the Ligue des Familles cost €8 per hour (correct as of June 2023), to be paid directly to the babysitter in cash or via a mobile payment like Payconiq.
The Dutch-speaking family association Gezinsbond offers a service to help members find a local babysitter (in Dutch). Like the Ligue des Familles service, they have good insurance cover and there is no additional fee to use the service – if you’re not a member, you can join Gezinsbond here and take advantage of lots of other benefits. They provide recommended rates (correct as of June 2023):
- hourly fee: €5/hour
- minimum service: 2 hours, i.e. €10
- fixed rate for overnight (between 22:00 and 08:00 + breakfast): €25
For more information about the service, you can contact firstname.lastname@example.org or tel +32 2 507 89 66. If you’re a member, you can contact your local coordinator directly. The Gezinsbond recommend you contact them at least three days in advance to have the best chance of finding an available babysitter.
A comprehensive website (only available in French / Dutch 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 postcode. Each babysitting/childminder has a page that gives information on their availabilities, experiences, interests, rates and a photograph.
Subsidised childcare if your child is too sick to go to daycare/school
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 18 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.