They come bearing resumes, business cards and billing invoices. They’ve got child-care training, first-aid expertise and an arsenal of educational activities to keep the kids amused. These are not Super Nannies. They’re the bubble gum-chewing baby sitters from down the block, those trusty neighborhood teens who keep an eye on the children for a few extra bucks. “I can remember getting $1-2 an hour, if I was lucky,” said Kris Evans Viner, 37, a Wethersfield, Connecticut, mother of two who pays her formally trained baby sitter $7 an hour.
Today’s sitters are likely to come with more training and business savvy than their ponytailed predecessors. They’ve taken hours-long instruction in baby-sitting, studying the ins and outs of diapering and feeding, of household safety and first-aid. They’ve learned to entertain finicky toddlers and coax the petulant to bed. And given the realities of today’s modern families, they’ve learned to maneuver delicately around the potential land mines of divorce, blended families and special-needs children.
For all this, these business-minded teens can command as much as $10 an hour (a princely sum, considering that child-care professionals earn an average of $8.57, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.)
“If your local McDonald’s is paying kids $10 an hour, you can pretty much bet your local sitter is going to charge you the same,” said Karen Willson, manager for babysittingclass.com.
Willson’s course has been training teens to deal with these new challenges for five years. For $17.50, students age 11 or older get six hours of schooling that includes accident prevention and general child-care.
The company teaches adolescent entrepreneurs how to operate like a business. Networking and marketing, rate negotiations and billing — it’s all part of the course.
Students earn their certification by passing a comprehensive set of tests. They get a handy wallet card that attests to potential employers their official baby-sitting credentials.
Willson estimates the course has certified about 5,000 teens from across the US and as far away as Australia last year. The American Red Cross has trained baby sitters since 1980; today, the organization trains about 150,000 annually.
Evans Viner, a Wethersfield mother, has two sitters in their late teens who charge about $7 an hour. One came knocking on her door several years ago to talk about her training, offer her sitting services and leave her business card.
“I was so glad,” Evans recalled. You do want to know what you’re getting, she said. “But, no, we've never gotten an invoice.”