Establish a Babysitter-vetting System that can Give Parents Peace of Mind

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry

The number of babysitters who visit clients’ homes to look after their children is increasing, and ensuring the quality of these services has become a challenge. In order to protect children from indecent incidents and abuse, it is necessary to strengthen the function of checking services concerning babysitters.

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry plans to create a database of names of babysitters who have been subject to criminal or administrative punishment for crimes or other trouble, along with the details of their punishments, in order to share the information among local governments. It aims to start the program from next fiscal year.

In 2020, two male babysitters were arrested for alleged indecent acts against the children of clients. It is significant to have a system established to prevent such babysitters from continuing to work in other prefectures and elsewhere again and causing similar incidents.

There have been cases in the past involving babysitters, such as violence against children and theft from clients’ homes, as well as indecent incidents. When other people enter a house where the parents are absent, it is difficult to keep an eye on them. Children are too young to report harm by themselves. There may be cases that have not come to light.

With preschool education and childcare services becoming free of charge in 2019, the government started to provide benefits to those who use babysitters, and babysitters are required to receive training sessions from local governments. As long as public funds are used for that purpose, local governments also have a responsibility to improve the quality of babysitters.

Although it is not necessary to have a qualification to operate a babysitting business, such as being a certified nursery teacher, a system was introduced in 2015 to notify prefectural governments of such businesses. It is reported that currently more than 3,000 businesses have notified prefectural governments of their existence, and 90% of them are sole proprietors.

In recent years, middleman websites that allow users to check such information as babysitters’ faces, fees and experience have become popular. These websites are operated by private companies that receive commissions from both the registered babysitters and the clients when a contract is concluded.

The two men who committed indecent incidents were registered on the same website. The website operators for such services must make thorough efforts to tighten screening procedures for babysitters, such as conducting interviews with them, to ensure that people unsuitable for babysitting are not registered.

In January this year, the website operator in question received a recommendation from the Cabinet Office to take corrective measures to repay the subsidies because it registered several babysitters on its website that had not been reported to prefectural governments. The central and local governments should also strengthen their guidance for and supervision of operating companies of websites for such services.

Other babysitters are believed to be working without having notified prefectural governments. The central and local governments need to collect information on their actual activities.

The industry must be aware that if this problem is left unaddressed, it will lose the trust of babysitters who are working diligently as well. Clients are also required to make efforts to determine the character of a babysitter through interviews with them beforehand and thoroughly check what their children were doing while in the babysitter’s care.