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The Baby Sitter Shortage

Baby-sitting has been a rite of passage for many kids eager to earn their own money. CBS News correspondent Susan McGinnis reports.

Parents depended on the young baby sitters – sometimes as young as age 12 - knowing that at least once a week they'd allow for a much-needed opportunity to go out. But that was yesterday.

Today, many parents in the market for such a helper are frustrated. Some feel finding a good baby sitter is almost a mission impossible.

"It's a supply and demand," says Brian Connolly, a father of three. "The baby sitters know they have the control. You have to start calling weeks in advance."

But finding the baby sitter is only the first step. Brian and his wife Sandy Connolly go to great lengths to keep their sitter happy.

"The big thing is, you got to talk about the perks -- what kind of food you have, what kind of snacks," explains Brian Connolly.

"We have the whole assortment of sodas," says Sandy Connolly. "Maybe she wants Diet Coke. I've got that all in there."

Baby sitter Stephanie Shelton says one family was grateful enough that they prepared a meal for her.

"There was one family who had never had a baby sitter before," Shelton says. "They had made me an entire chicken dinner and had made me cupcakes with five different kinds of frostings, [they] had Twizzlers, and the kid couldn't eat yet. So, it was all for me."

Parents in many areas say they have the same problem. And it may be because, according to the U.S. census, there are more children than teens right now. Parenting magazine reports that more high school kids have jobs now than ever before. And Safe Sitter says homework and extra-curricular activities have also risen.

"Once I got to high school, it's like so much busier," says Shelton. "I'm in a lot of the theater plays at my school. I'm in student government and I play a sport -- field hockey. And just [spend time] with friends and stuff."

But on a recent Saturday night, the Connolly's were grateful that Shelton agreed to sit for them.

"We're in conversation with another couple who hires baby sitters and somebody says, 'Oh, and it slips who our baby sitter is.' We say, 'Oh well, you know, we're going have to kill you now because you know who our baby sitter is,'" laughs Sandy Connolly.

Parents Danielle, Tamara and Nancy, who are all friends, usually don't share their baby sitter's phone numbers.

"I have a couple of people who actually pay the baby sitter for every Saturday night -- whether they're here or not, whether they go out," says Danielle.

And all three moms recognize the importance of keeping the sitter happy, and even tell the children to be extra good.

If [baby sitters] have the opportunity to sit for good kids as opposed to kids that give them a little bit of a problem, they'll certainly take the easier approach," explains Danielle.

With three children, the Connollys know the sitter's night will not be easy. It is why Stephanie Shelton is so valuable to the parents, and her services are not shared.

"My hope, actually, is that Stephanie will fail out of high school," Brian Connolly says sarcastically. :"And have to live at home until she's 30 and baby-sit for us the next 10 years and then get on with her life."

When couples go out, dinner and a movie, plus the cost of a baby sitter can cost about $150. The parents interviewed called this number the "baby sitter tax."

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