College students typically wait tables and stack library books to earn a few dollars, but at Barnard, work time can involve nap time. Members of the Barnard College Babysitters play soccer, make dinner, read The Cat in the Hat, and even catch up on homework while rolling in up to $25 an hour.
The Barnard Babysitting Service, founded in 1965, links student babysitters with New York City families for one-evening or weekly jobs and even opportunities to accompany a family on vacation. The agency has about 1500 registered employees and over 2500 clients looking for sitters.
"Jobs are always available and it is a very organized and convenient way to make extra cash," said Danielle Wolfe BC '07, a sitter with the agency and Barnard's student representative to the University Senate. "I encounter a lot of Barnard and Columbia alumni who post jobs with the service, and I have had long-standing relationships with many of the families I sit for."
Parents only need to pay a $20 annual fee and get a note from the family's pediatrician to list babysitting opportunities with the service. Because of security reasons, the sign-up system is not online. Instead, sitters sign up for jobs in binders located in the agency's office, which is next to Barnard's Office of Career Development Center in Elliott Hall.
To be part of the service, sitters must be full-time students at Barnard, pay a one-time fee of five dollars, and attend a short orientation. Some parents may request an in-person or phone interview or ask for references before taking a sitter, and they can be suspended or fired from the service for not showing up to a job.
"Having an official babysitting agency allows us to make sure our sitters understand their commitment to jobs that they take, and helps make the process safer for both parents and students," said Dalia Borenstein, manager at the Barnard Babysitting Agency.
Students from Columbia's other three undergraduates schools are not permitted to join the Barnard Babysitting Agency, but there is an existing, although less well-known, avenue for them to get in on the cash.
The Columbia Center for Career Education accepts babysitting job submissions via ColumbiaTrak's Temp Time service, which regularly sends registered students notices regarding open tutoring and babysitting positions. Students respond directly based on information from the database, but there is no organized training or consequences for not showing up to a job.
"There has been some talk in the past with Columbia about helping them to start up a similar agency," Borenstein said. She said that last year the agency had meetings with Career Education at Columbia to offer advice on how CC and SEAS could develop their own babysitting service but as of yet, nothing has come of those meetings.