All About Babysitters

Babysitters are hired by parents to provide custodial care for the couple’s children. Babysitters may provide full-time, part-time, long-term, short-term, back-up, temporary, or regularly scheduled occasional childcare. While parents typically use babysitters so that they can fulfill their social or personal commitments, some parents use babysitters to meet their long-term childcare needs. Since the type of care a babysitter provides significantly differs from that of a qualified nanny, parents requiring long-term childcare should consider hiring a qualified nanny rather than a babysitter.

Qualifications

Babysitter is a broad reaching term that is used to define childcare providers of all skill and experience levels. From the preteen who nervously babysits for the first time for her next door neighbor to the nanny school graduate who picks up additional hours working for a second family every Saturday night, most anyone and everyone who provides childcare in a private home is labeled a babysitter by most people.

While there are no minimum qualifications for babysitters, parents can certainly set their own standards when it comes to who they hire to care for their children. A mom who needs a caregiver to watch her newborn may require potential caregivers to have previous experience caring for newborns while a mom who needs a caregiver to watch her six-year-old may not.

In addition to loving children, being trustworthy and responsible, at minimum, a babysitter should have current CPR and first aid certification. Regardless of a babysitter’s age, childcare knowledge and caregiving skills, all babysitters must be able to keep the children safe and handle an emergency, should one arise. While parents may deem running a background check on the neighborhood teen they’ve watched grow up, running a background check on a potential caregiver is always wise.

If a child has any special needs or health considerations, it’s essential that the caregiver is qualified to provide care for that child and meet that child’s needs. For example, if a child has diabetes, the caregiver should have the necessary knowledge, experience and skills required to care for a diabetic child.

Training

While most babysitters get their training hands-on or glean their caregiving skills from their mothers, some formal babysitter training programs do exist. The American Red Cross and 4-H are two of the most well-known associations that offer babysitter training programs, although the non-profit organization Safe Sitter is devoted solely to training babysitters. Many local hospitals and YMCA’s also offer babysitter training to members of the community. While many babysitting certifications and courses are available on the Internet, it’s important to verify the educator’s credentials and evaluate the course requirements prior to determining its credibility.

Role

Babysitters typically provide custodial childcare. Custodial childcare is care that is focused on meeting the children’s immediate needs. Unlike nannies who are concerned with the children’s ongoing physical, social, emotional, and intellectual development and partner with the parents to meet them, babysitters are concerned with meeting the children’s needs in the here and now.

Babysitters also serve as role models to the children in their care. They should use appropriate language and good manners while with the children. Babysitters should also create a safe and nurturing environment for the children that encourages their health and well-being.

Parents who opt to utilize a babysitter for full-time childcare may expect their babysitter to fulfill the role of a nanny, however if the caregiver does not have the necessary childcare experience, knowledge and skill set, the quality of care that the child receives will suffer.

Responsibilities

Babysitters are primarily concerned with keeping the children safe and well-cared for their parents are away from the home. Babysitters may play with the children, get the children off of the school bus, supervise them doing homework and prepare meals or snacks for the children.

Since parents depend on babysitters to provide childcare so that they can tend to their personal or social obligations, it’s essential that babysitters show up for their jobs on time.

Babysitters must focus on the children and be attentive to the children’s need at all times. They should strive to actively engage the children while in their care. It is imperative that the children be their main focus, so babysitters should avoid talking on the phone, texting and using their personal electronic devices when responsible for the children.

Babysitters must also be able to discipline the children in their care by offering guidance and redirection when appropriate. Babysitters should check with the parents regarding the family’s discipline style and discuss how they wish her to handle inappropriate behavior.

Since babysitters typically provide short-term and occasional childcare for many families, they are usually provided with a list of job specific responsibilities. These responsibilities may include heating up a prepared dinner, putting the children to bed and doing the children’s laundry. The babysitter’s responsibilities will always vary based on the family’s childcare needs and the sitter must be able to follow the parent’s instructions and ask follow-up questions if an instruction is unclear.

Salary and Benefits

When it comes to paying a babysitter, parents and sitters typically negotiate the hourly rate and several things can affect what determines a fair rate. Geographical location, the caregiver’s experience, education, skill set, the number of children, and the babysitter’s duties and responsibilities will impact the babysitter’s hourly rate. The more experience and education a babysitter has, the more she’ll be paid.

Some babysitters may be happy to work for minimum wage, while others will expect to be paid $18 or more per hour. A teenage neighbor who is new to babysitting will earn less than a seasoned nanny who picks up babysitting gigs on the side.

Typically since babysitters are occasional workers, they don’t receive employment benefits, however some parents who hire full-time babysitters may provide some benefits including paid vacation days or paid holidays.

Parents who pay a babysitter more than the annual wage threshold, $1800 as of 2012, have tax responsibilities. These responsibilities include paying their portion of Social Security and Medicare and paying federal and state unemployment insurance and disability, if required by state law. Babysitters are responsible for federal and state income taxes and employee disability or unemployment taxes, if required by state law. Parents are also mandated to withhold the sitter’s portion of Social Security and Medicare. Since babysitters are not independent contractors they must be provided with a W-2 at the end of each year.