When Stephanie Wilcome was looking to make a little extra money while in nursing school at Howard Community College, she thought that baby-sitting might be the perfect fit with her passion for children and her varying schedule.
But Wilcome, 22, of Columbia, was having trouble finding jobs in the area. She tried some national service websites to find families that needed sitters but was getting frustrated with inconsistent pay and finding a safe situation.
“I had one family that was going to a Ravens game and I thought that there was only going to be one kid there, but then I got to their house, there were 14 kids for me to watch and they only paid me the $9 an hour I was promised for one child,” Wilcome said.
So when she heard that her middle school friend was starting a referral service for local baby sitters, Wilcome couldn’t wait to sign up.
“I was excited that there was going to be an easier way to ensure that I didn’t have to worry about getting paid or finding work,” she said.
The online referral system, Howard County Babysitters, was created by Jasmine Wallace of Columbia when she was 18 as a local tool to match sitters with families.
Wallace, now 22, has grown her website from a couple of friends and families she already knew to a database of 54 families and 32 baby sitters, some more active than others.
“I’m extremely passionate about the service, and I really feel as though I’m helping local families and baby sitters find each other in a safe way,” Wallace said.
She standardized baby-sitter rates to help them get paid fairly. Rates for families are $11 an hour for one child and $12 an hour for two children, with the opportunity to negotiate for jobs with more children.
It’s a one-time fee of $25 for Howard County parents to sign up. The service charges a $5 fee every time a sitter comes to baby-sit, which is added to the hourly fee, and $25 for every cancellation that is later than 48 hours before the sitter’s scheduled time.
Wallace interviews each sitter she puts in her database and pays for background checks before they are hired. She also accompanies each of her employees on their first baby-sitting job to watch them with the family and the children to see if the fit is a good one.
“It’s been so exciting to see the business grow,” Wallace said. “I really enjoy matching up sitters with families and seeing my service making an impact on the community,” she said.
For Ana Murach of Odenton, a mother of two boys ages 7 and 15, Wallace and her service have helped her do things she couldn’t have done before.
“I’ve used people she has referred when she’s not available, and they’ve always been amazing,” Murach said. “I trust the people she hires because I know what a great person Jasmine is both with the kids and with her business.”