I know I can't be the only one who's seen a really good babysitter and wished I could let her employers know how lucky they are to ahve her, or, even more upsettingly, seen a babysitter doing something so bad that I wished I could warn her employers. The problem is that unless you know the family, there's virtually no way to know how to contact the parents, short of following the babysitter home.
The good people at The Opinionated Parent tipped me off to this interesting service from Howsmynanny.com. Basically, you sign up with the site, and they give you a license plate to put on your stroller so people can log in to the site and send compliments or danger reports about your babysitter. Read the Opinionated Parent post about it for the details (and to sign up to win a free membership to the service).
I think this raises some interesting issues. To me, putting a license plate on your stroller is so much better than doing a nannycam for all involved. It's clearly better for the babysitter, because who wants to be videotaped at work without her knowledge? Plus, great nanny skills can be noticed and complimented. And I think it's better for the employer parents, too, because it gives them a way to get confirmation of their feelings about the babysitter in a more professional way.
I can see two interesting issues with this service. The first is that it doesn't do anything for people whose babysitters are not out and about in a stroller. And if you do use a stroller all the time (like people do her ein NYC), you still have no way of knowing what's happening in places and situations in which the stroller isn't there. So users might not be comfortable with that. (To me, it all goes back to following your gut and not hiring someone you don't feel good about in the first place. And if the license plate helps you calm down general fears so that you can listen to your gut about that particular babysitter, then that's great.)
The more interesting issue I can see is what will happen if parents get reported to themselves for bad caretaking behavior! I think we've all done things that someone else might construe as bad caretaking. So how are you going to react if someone emails in about something "bad" you've done? I'd hope I'd be able to look at it and use it as a reality check (Was it something actually inappropriate that I shouldn't do again? Or just an immature or stressed-out reaction to loathesome child behavior that I won't repeat anyway? Or was the reporter off-base?). But if I doubted my own parenting skills, then this could open up a can of worms for me personally.
What do you think? Personally, I think it's the best solution I've seen yet for a situation that has so many inherent problems and sticky issues but is also really high-stakes. But it's not perfect.