How much does after-school child care cost?

June 15, 2020

Hiring an after-school babysitter can be a huge stress saver for families. 

“It was the best decision of my life,” says Michaelann H., a real estate director and mom of three in Tampa, Florida. “When you get home from work and school, the kids need food and homework [help] and your attention and baths — but there is still laundry and dishes to do. And how do you pay attention to the screaming baby while trying to cook healthy meals?”

As Michaelann’s situation illustrates, it can make families’ lives vastly easier to have someone to care for kids at home between the end of the school day and parents’ return from work — and perhaps for a little while after that to transition from evening to night time. Some sitters may stay to watch kids while parents cook and/or settle in or help with baths or bedtime rituals.

The benefits of after-school child care for parents and kids are clear, but how much will it cost?

According to Care.com’s 2020 Cost of Care Survey, which used payment data from over 3,800 parents across the country, parents paid after-school caregivers an average of $243 per week. After-school sitters made an average of $16.20 per hour, working about three hours a day, or a total of 15 hours per week. Nannies made an average of $14.12 per hour for a 40-hour workweek.

That said, a variety of factors go into a caregiver’s wage. Here are eight things to consider when deciding how much to pay an after-school caregiver for their valuable work.

1. Location

Child care rates can vary widely from place to place. For example, in the Boston-Cambridge area, the going rate for an experienced sitter to watch one child averages $17.00 per hour, but in Akron, Ohio, it averages $12.50 per hour, according to the Care.com babysitting rates calculator. In the San Francisco Bay area, a full-time nanny for one infant earns an average of $20.05 per hour, and in the Houston area, they average $15.95 per hour, according to the Care.com cost of child care calculator.

To get a sense of what child care providers earn near you, ask around. Family and friends who are parents or parents in a local Facebook group might be a good place to start.

To get a close estimate, you can also check out the Care.com calculators:

2. Number of children

“I pay a lot higher than most parents because we have multiple kids and dogs, and I want my sitter to keep coming back!” says Jene L., a mom, author and TV host in Rotterdam, New York. 

The more kids you have, the more demanding the job for the nanny or sitter, so you may need to increase the hourly rate for your caregiver per child. That rate is usually about $1 to $2 more per hour for kids in the same family, says Rachel Charlupski, founder of the Babysitting Company, a company that connects parents with sitters in several cities across the country. If you’re sharing a sitter with another family, the rate tends to go up about $5 to $10 per hour per family.

3. Number of hours

“Sometimes parents need only an hour or two of care before they come home,” says Charlupski. 

That can make you feel like you’ll get away with spending less, but know that many sitters will set a minimum number of hours so they know they’re guaranteed a certain amount of work each week or for each sitting job.

You might also decide to hire a full-time nanny who takes care of your babies or younger children during the day and school-age children after they get home from school. Full-time work may mean a similar (and sometimes slightly higher or lower) hourly rate, but more hours obviously means you’ll pay them more total per week.

That said, make sure you and your sitter are in agreement on not only an hourly rate but also a minimum and/or maximum number of hours before you hire them, advises Charlupski. It’s also wise to have a written contract that outlines everything you’re agreeing upon, including rate and number of hours.

4. Driving or other transportation

If your kids have after-school activities or regular play dates, your after-school caregiver will need to be willing and able to transport your kids. 

“The hardest thing [in hiring a sitter] was making sure they could pick my boys up from their camps and after-school activities, so a decent car and a good driving record were important,” says Michaelann.

“Parents may pay higher wages as they seek a sitter who drives a safe car,” says Elizabeth Malson, president of Amslee Institute in Sarasota, Florida. 

Charlupski also points out that sitters who drive kids should be compensated for gas used while on the job and for a car wash once every few weeks.

5. Experience and qualifications

Looking for someone with a child care diploma? A teaching degree? Years of experience?

“Education and experience can increase hourly wages for child care providers who provide additional services,” says Malson. 

Candidates with more experience and/or more child development education than others may stand out and may be in higher demand.

6. Homework help and tutoring

In general, after-school sitters should expect to help kids with their homework as part of the job, says Charlupski. But at times, parents want more intensive tutoring, and if so, they should be prepared to pay extra for that service.

Charlupski says tutoring is generally a separate transaction from babysitting. 

“It should be at least double for that time, usually an hour or two maximum,” says Charlupski, emphasizing that “homework help is different than tutoring, and we do not recommend charging more [for homework help].”

7. Housework

You might be tempted to hire someone who can wear two hats: nanny and cleaning person, but Charlupski warns against this. 

“We do not recommend a sitter agrees to deep cleaning, because it takes away the time that they are supervising and engaging with the kids,” she says. “But we always recommend cleaning up after themselves and the children and their activities. The home should look the same or better than how they arrived.”

To that end, make sure any household chores you add to your after-school sitter’s plate are duties that can be reasonably done while they keep a close eye on your child. For example, Michaelann says her after-school sitter does her kids’ laundry and loads and unloads her dishwasher. Similar expectations should be agreed upon up front when you hire your caregiver.

8. Additional benefits and responsibilities

Since every family has unique needs — and different sitters have different skills they bring to the table — you may find yourself adjusting the sitter’s responsibilities and possibly the rate during the hiring process.

“We modified our sitter’s job description when we met the person we hired and saw what her strengths were,” says Michaelann.

A few skills that can command a higher hourly wage, according to Malson, include “speaking a second language, caring for pets and household management.”

And while after-school sitters who work part-time hours may not receive employment benefits, such as paid time off, you might find that offering benefits to a full-time nanny keeps them satisfied with their job. If you do, their rate can be adjusted to reflect perks you offer, as benefits are often part of pay negotiations.

The takeaway for parents who are hiring

Charlupski urges parents and caregivers to establish expectations together and come to a mutual agreement so everyone’s on the same page from the start. 

“Everything should be clear,” she says. 

For infrequent babysitting gigs, it’s common to simply have a verbal agreement. But for regular after-school or full-time care, it’s a good idea to sign a written contract together with your sitter. Here’s some guidance for creating a babysitting contract or nanny contract to get you started.

What everyone deems worthy of higher pay may vary, but every parent can agree that a caregiver’s kindness is invaluable. 

As Jene puts it, “If they are good to my children, they deserve to be compensated well.”

Tips and stories from parents and caregivers who’ve been there.

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