Babysitters scare me. The concept of giving my child over to the care of a young (usually) person I barely know is utterly terrifying. That's why word-of-mouth referrals are so important for child care. But talking to friends to find a sitter? That's old-fashioned.
A new site, CareSquare, is a social network and scheduling utility for parents, babysitters, and nannies. On this system, you can review babysitters' profiles and see reviews from the community at large or from other parents in your network.
More importantly, you can search for child care by date and time. This is the really cool part. You specify when you need help, and the system tells you who is available. You can view schedules (and rates and feedback comments) and book babysitting time right on the system.
For this to work, of course, child care providers have to use the system, and it appears that CareSquare hopes to rely on them to get the word out. The system recommends that caregivers invite their current customers to the network under the guise of easier scheduling. Then they'll hopefully post feedback, invite their friends online, and the network will grow.
But forget the social network angle. From my perspective, just having our sitter share her availability calendar with us would be a great help. It doesn't look like the system can be used in this private mode, but the site is very new (some interface bugs were fixed since last night), and I expect it will evolve quickly.
If you have kids, CareSquare is worth a try. If you don't find what you need on it, I'd recommend coming back again in about a month after its creators have had some time to shake out the feature set and, hopefully, grow the network. The site is currently free.