Know a good baby sitter?

Some parents use Internet to seek help with their children

Some parents use Internet to seek help with their children

July 06, 2007|By TIFFANY ARNOLD

Jenna and Jason Lamer hope to find a baby sitter by fielding e-mails from those who notice the couple's Craigslist posting.

The Smithsburg couple - parents of 2-year-old Kylie and 11-week-old Dylan - say it beats waiting around for a good sitter to emerge from word-of-mouth recommendations from family and friends.

While sitters and sitter-seekers are posting ads on Craigslist and other online classified sites, the Internet is one of many resources available to sitters and parents.

There's even more help for sitters. Organizations such as the American Red Cross offer tips to wannabe sitters online.

Becky Sempowski, 19, teaches a baby-sitting course at Penn State Cooperative Extension office in Chambersburg, Pa. She said the idea of baby-sitter training was a relatively new concept when she enrolled in one nearly a decade ago.


"The things I learned in that class I still use today," Sempowski said.

She now teaches young people how to be responsible sitters.

Students learn which questions to ask parents - like what to do in case of emergencies or if the child has allergies or requires medicine. They also learn simple recipes and entertaining activities to keep kids busy while the parents are gone.

The class teaches against lazy habits, like plopping the kids down in front of the TV.

"When they're not glued to the TV, they listen to you better," Sempowski said.

The class also teaches about the business side to baby-sitting - like negotiating rates, hours and how to handle vacations and emergencies in advance.

Sitters can make an average of $3 to $5 per child per hour, Sempowski said.

Rebecca Duncan, 15, of Keedysville, is baby-sitting full time this summer and gets paid $150 a week to watch two girls - 10-year-old Taylor Williams and 7-year-old Ashley Williams.

"I've never had a real job (before)," Rebecca said.

The Lamers said the prospect of paying a sitter less than what they would otherwise pay for day care is an attractive option.

Through the Craigslist posting, they've already found two potential sitters whom they plan to interview in person.

"It's not like we're bringing a total stranger into our home," said Jenna Lamer, a 21-year-old loan officer.

They said they went to the Web because the grapevine wasn't working.

"Oh goodness, when I first had Kylie, it was very hard to find a sitter," Jenna Lamer said, adding that bad experiences pushed her away from day care and that she had to find a new sitter after the woman who used to watch her daughter took ill.

Karen Williams, who hired Rebecca to baby-sit her daughters, said she felt lucky that she found a reliable sitter down the street from her Keedysville home. Rebecca's sister Sara Duncan, used to baby-sit for the family.

"I knew her family," Williams said. "I see her with her brothers and sisters. I know she's good with kids."

Rebecca typically watches the girls from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays. Most of their time is spent at the backyard pool or doing crafts.

"They think they have a big sister," said Williams, a financial adviser for Verizon.

Williams works from home, but she said she decided to hire a sitter to watch her children while she works. Her husband, Scott, works outside the home.

"I did send them to day care, and I had a good experience with day care, but the day care situation is not flexible," Williams said. "You're kind of just paying for a spot. You're paying whether or not they're there."

Resources for baby sitters

At its Web site, the American Red Cross offers several tips for sitters, such as diapering techniques and how to interview for a baby-sitting job. There also are downloadable PDFs for emergency numbers and a safety inspection checklist.

Visit the Red Cross online at

Tips for planning for a baby sitter

Negotiate price upfront

Rates average around $3 to $5 per kid per hour, said veteran sitter Becky Sempowski. Some sitters might charge more for younger children or for special circumstances. The baby sitter's work hours and duties should also be clearly outlined upfront. Unless there's some sort of agreement between the parent and the sitter, cleaning is usually out of the question - unless it's related to the baby sitter's activity with the kids (example: if they do crafts or if the sitter cooks and uses dishes).

Ask about food

If you're expecting the sitter to feed your child, this needs to be discussed, "so that they're not feeding them McDonald's every day," said Jenna Lamer. Lamer said she learned this tip the hard way, after she found out a sitter was feeding her daughter fast food every day.

Sitters also should be alerted to food allergies.

Don't wait until the last minute to hire a sitter

Sitters need notice, said Sempowski, 19, who teaches sitter classes in Chambersburg. In her seven years of baby-sitting, Sempowski has found some parents expect her to be on call.

"There's been times when people have called me at the very last minute. You can't do that," Sempowski said. At least two days notice should suffice, Sempowski said.

At the same time, baby sitters should tell parents about upcoming vacations and other off days well in advance, Sempowski said.

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