Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Hey, babysitter, don't charge me more for my child with special needs

"I've babysat kids like him before," the woman said. She was seated on a couch in our living room as Dave and I spoke with her and the kids played games on their iPads and occasionally chimed in. I know she didn't mean anything negative, but it wasn't a good sign. Especially since she said it as if Max wasn't right there and capable of understanding her.

We're lucky enough to have had the same sitter since Max was a baby, but now that Ben's here, Dave and I decided it would be good to have someone in the wings for weekends or days when our sitter was off. This woman knew Sabrina and Max; she had babysat kids in our neighborhood. She asked Sabrina a bunch of questions (what grade was she in, was she enjoying her new baby brother); she asked Max only for a high five.

The woman knew Max had a cheerful disposition and that he's pretty easygoing. I spelled out what specific help he'd require: He needs food prepared for him, and he can't eat anything chunky or crunchy. He requires help showering and dressing. At night he needs his medication, a powder that comes in packets, sprinkled into a yogurt, pudding or applesauce. If he's doing a craft, he might need help setting it up or cutting stuff. She nodded agreeably as I spoke.

"Ire-ahn Ax!" added Max, reminding her that he needed to be addressed as Fireman Max.

Dave saw her out the door; they stood in our hallway and spoke for a bit.

"How much did she want per hour?" I asked after she'd gone.

"She said that when she'd babysat kids like Max [THAT phrase again] she got forty dollars an hour," Dave told me.


While the help and attention Max needs aren't typical for someone his age (nor does the average 13-year-old still have a babysitter), the tasks themselves aren't out of the ordinary for sitters. And sure, you have to really focus to understand what Max is saying or wait for him to type out words on his speech app. But isn't this what sitters do—look after kids in their charge and engage them? Max does not require a caregiver with special or medical training, the kind who typically command a higher rate of pay.

Dave said we couldn't do forty bucks an hour, and told her the rate we're accustomed to paying. She said she'd accept that. But we have yet to book a follow-up interview. It wasn't that I felt she was testing us to see how much money she could get, it was her mentality. I realize that when she said "I've babysat kids like him before" she was trying to make it clear she had relevant experience. But in my experience, her words belied a mindset that defines people like Max by their special needs instead of viewing them as people first.

I expect sitters to give Max the help he needs but not otherwise consider him so very different from other people. I expect sitters not to charge us double the usual rate of pay.

What has your experience been: Have you had sitters upcharge you for babysitting your child with special needs?

Image: Wikicommons


  1. Most sitters I've encountered have a base rate and then there's an add on for each extra kid, and additional addons for a baby or toddler because they are legitimately significantly more work then the average "kid". I've always felt that was pretty reasonable, and not price discrimination. The sitter has the right to set a price based on the amount of work she's likely to face for that evening.
    I'd assume the actual numbers would likely very pretty widely depending on the location... but you have 3 kids, one of whom is an infant. I personally wouldn't be surprised at all about a price of $30.00 an hour or maybe more (again though, you'd know far better what's normal in your area).
    Referring repeatedly to "kids like him" though... that's just not right.

    1. $40 or even $30 an hour is outrageous. I don't know your son, but from what you've described above (what the sitters additional responsibilities would be re: Max) the care he requires is in no way out of the ordinary. Perhaps more in line with a child younger than Max, but he isn't requiring potential emergency medical intervention. I live in an area that - outside of Manhattan - is arguably among the most expensive in the tri-state and a babysitter asking for $40 an hour would be dismissed as unreasonable. Yes, they do have a 'right' to set their own price, but trying to gouge a special needs parent is beyond despicable and speaks to the character of the sitter. $20 an hour perhaps with a $5 an hour add on for an infant is fairly in line for the attention you described Max needing. If you do not require a person to have special medical training, or if you aren't combining sitting with therapy, absolutely no need to pay that high. I'm mad that somebody even asked you for that, and honestly, annoyed that the comment above seemed to think that was even a little okay. Maybe you need somebody more than the average teenager next door (to shower Max) but there are plenty of women who would appreciate the work at $20-25/hour. If you took the shower off the table, an older teenager would be perfectly appropriate especially if you were close to home or it were a short outing.

  2. While her attitude may need some adjustment, and she in particular seemed to be price-gouging, our special-needs children do, in fact, need special attention. Helping a 13 year old shower and administering medicine are not typical baby-sitter activities. Since you would not hire the average teenage girl down the street to care for Max (nor would I to care for my special-needs kiddos), I would expect to pay a bit more for more qualified help - though the price this woman was going to charge you was excessive, unless she was coming as a qualified nurse!

  3. $40 an hour? WHOA! That's a lot of money. We didn't even pay our sitter that much when she was watching 6 kids (ours and our friend's- though 4 of the 6 kids really only needed a warm body in the house).

    I do have to more carefully consider who is watching my kids when my special kiddo will be there, too, and as such, I take it into account that having a sitter who can handle him is probably going to mean paying a bit more than if someone where just watching my other two.

  4. In our area a traveling NURSE not just a caregiver can command about $40 an hour. I know this for a fact as I worked in a skilled long term facility. No babysitter would get paid that amount here. No matter how many children, special needs or not, infant or not, she was watching.

  5. I don't know of a babysitter that makes that amount. I know as a registered nurse I could make that or more an hour but I also have a registered nurse license and do not babysit patients. I am not sure where you live but if you live near or are in a college area maybe you could find a college student that is a special education major to help out from time to time?

  6. Did she want 40$ an hour to watch all 3 children or 40$ for Fireman Max and a separate amount for Sabrina & Ben? 40 divided by 3 is about 13.33 per child which I would think is fair but if she said 40$ for just Fireman Max that is outrageous.

  7. Is this for all 3 kids or just Max? Because you can understand it being high for 3 kids including a baby but not just for Max! People sometimes

  8. Good grief! One of the pluses to a small town in NC is that someone making 20 dollars an hour would be like winning the lottery. My boys were preemies and have chronic lung disease. Our sitters have not batted an eye at administering a lot of medication. I have never considered paying extra and no one has ever asked. We always just pay the going rate. Everything you are asking isn't crazy. The baby is a lot more work than Max. The "kids like him" comment would disqualify her anyway...

  9. Maybe your area is particularly expensive, but in my experience an operator at a chemical plant gets paid $30-35 to keep chlorine in the pipes instead of wiping out a community. There are people that get paid $40/hour? Gee whiz.

  10. I've never ASKED for more than $10 an hour. I have a couple of degrees in education and 30 years experience as a sitter, nanny, ICF level direct care provider, educator, and respite provider.

    When I care for a child with special needs AND their sib(s) it depends on the age of the sibs if the parents paid me for the sibs. However, they aren't paying out of pocket for the child with special needs. Even then, the TOTAL has never been over $20. (Granted, most are very generous in other ways: meals while caring for their child, money for community outings that more than covers the cost of the outing, gifts, etc.)

    Now that a couple of my respite buddies are over 18 and considered adults by the state, I get paid $10-15 an hour.

    I learned from a friend in IN, that workers/care providers paid through Medicaid are prohibited from accepting ANYTHING from the home/family (meals, snacks, drinks, nothing), which I think is kinda crazy too.

  11. My kids attended an in-home daycare from the time they were newborns until they entered school. Our daycare lady charged less for kids over age 2. When our daughter, who has significant and challenging medical needs, turned 2, I asked our daycare lady if she wanted me to continue paying the infant rate, since my girl needed a lot of extra care. I will never forget what she said to me — she told me that she does not believe in charging more for special needs kids because she feels that's discriminatory. BLESS HER.

  12. If you're using an extensive range of specialized equipment, I could see why the extra expenses would apply. If not, then they should not apply.

  13. This is why I gave up on finding a nanny for my boys, one of which was 1.5yo with a g tube at the time. I couldn't afford full time care at $40/hour! Thank goodness the local center accepted him and isn't charging me extra.


  14. I once told the mother of a girl I babysat for that I would charge her $40/hour if she didn't hide the Barbie DVDs before the next time I came over, but that was just to cover the therapy I'd need afterwards. Jeez.

  15. $40/hour for 3 children, one of whom is an infant and one of whom DOES require more attention than is usual for a child his age isn't out of line.


Thanks for sharing!

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