Dawn Collins needed a job when she came to this country from England in 2008.
The Cape May Court House grandmother reverted to an old career as a way to earn cash in a down economy. Collins, who started baby-sitting at age 12 and sporadically worked as a full-time nanny, is back to watching kids.
With the job market struggling, teen baby sitters are finding competition from older adults who are turning to the trade to help make ends meet.
Last summer, Collins, 50, carved out at a niche looking after the children of parents who vacation in Cape May County.
Collins charges between $15 and $50 an hour, but she will cook, drive kids, care for a sick child and sit for four children at once.
“I think a lot of people, who decide to go with me as a baby sitter, go with me because I’m older, and I have more experience. They feel more comfortable with somebody who is more mature,” said, Collins, who supervised children from infants to teens.
Some of the older women looking to do baby-sitting and nanny work are stay-at-home moms looking to supplement the family budget, but many are frustrated job-seekers with no other immediate prospects.
“A lot of them were teachers or administrators. A lot of school districts are cutting back. A lot of them have been out of work for a couple of years. It’s tough enough for someone (who is) 40 to get a job, let alone in their 50s and 60s,” said Todd Pliss, who founded rentagrandma.com in 2010 to market the services of baby sitters and nannies with a bit more experience than the teen down the street.
“They have raised kids,” Pliss said “A lot of families say to us, ‘We want our own Alice, as in Alice in ‘The Brady Bunch.’”
Pliss’ site offers the services of 600 older baby sitters nationwide. His roster includes southern New Jersey grandmother Debbie Reinwalds, of Mays Landing.
About 2 million baby sitters and nannies nationwide are in the sittercity.com database. It is the oldest and largest of the online baby-sitting matching services, said Melissa Marchwick, company executive vice president. The baby-sitter and nanny population on its site is getting older. The average age of the sitters was 18 when the site launched in 2001. It is now 28, Marchwick said.
Care.com, which is more than five years old, has more than 1 million caregivers nationwide. Sixty percent are older than 23, said Katie Bugbee, the managing editor.
There are lots of reasons some parents prefer an older sitter. Adult sitters don’t text or tweet while watching children, Pliss said. Many parents feel the older sitters are more dependable, he added.
“They are in a different place in their life. I’ve had parents on the phone crying to me out of frustration. They’ve had college kids. They’ve had the 19-year-olds. A lot of times, they didn’t show up. On a moment’s notice, they’ll leave and say, ‘Hey, I’m gonna go follow somebody halfway across the country, or I’m going to take a job, or I’m going back to school. Grandmas are a lot more settled in their lives,” Pliss said.
But some parents prefer to hire younger people, said Susan Kotayer, co-president of the International Nanny Association.
“A more mature person may not have the same energy as a young person. That would be, by far, the comment that is probably said the most,” said Kotayer, whose organization has existed since 1985.
Also, many adult sitters don’t come cheap. Older sitters usually charge more than their younger competitors, and tend to get their price.
Michelle Anderson, of Northfield, charges $10 to $15 per hour. For that price, parents get someone who knows the Heimlich maneuver, first aid and is trained in CPR. Anderson, 31, has a college degree, can swim and has a driver’s license. A typical teen babysitter gets between $8 and $10 an hour.
Anderson has been baby-sitting for the last 15 years and now does it for extra money as she raises her own two children.
“I used to work full time in the corporate world and (would) baby-sit on the side,” Anderson said. “I know with me and my own children, I would prefer someone who is a little bit older with a little more experience.”
Like many parents, Amanda Moore was concerned about who she’d find to watch her baby when the time came for the 30-year-old Egg Harbor Township mom to return to work.
“I would definitely say I was more cautious of the younger girls,” said Moore, 30, who works as a supervisor for Univision .
The idea of leaving her 7-month-old daughter, Charleigh, with a stranger was nerve-wracking. So a 20-year-old, or someone still in college, wasn’t ideal for her, Moore said.
She turned to Reinwalds, 50.
Reinwalds is a stay-at-home mom, but she baby-sits and does nanny work to earn supplemental income for her family to enjoy itself. Besides rentagrandma.com, she also has profiles on care.com and sittercity.com
“I do it because I enjoy the children. ... They call me Miss Debbie,” said Reinwalds, who creates photo albums of children she baby-sits. “The kids enjoy coming over. They ask their mommies to come over, and they have trouble getting them out of here.”
Moore’s daughter can’t speak, but her mom knows the little girl is happy with the arrangement too.
“I leave the baby with (Reinwalds). I hear her laughing as I leave. It’s a great feeling, and I show up, and she’s smiling. Debbie is really great,” Moore said.
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