Two sites that allow the busy Solo Mom to find child care quickly and easily
Modern mothers now have more options than ever on where and how to find childcare. Sittercity and UrbanSitter are two very popular and resourceful sites for busy moms. Here are two interviews that will help you get acquainted with the sites.
Q&A with Sittercity vice-president Melissa Marchwick
Q: What do you see as the biggest advantages to using your service?
A: Parents are increasingly turning to Sittercity to find child care for a number of reasons. The first challenge parents face is finding available caregivers. While it’s common to ask friends and family members for help or recommendations, it can be difficult for parents to find child care that meets their needs, especially when they want to fill a part-time or full-time weekday position. One of the great things about the number of sitters parents can access on Sittercity is that they are able to find the right sitter for whatever their child-care need might be, from a full-time nanny or after-school care to the occasional date night.
Sittercity addresses these challenges by enabling parents to access hundreds—even thousands—of caregivers in their area, providing a significant pool of candidates from which to find the right fit for their family. Sittercity also provides the tools and information they need to identify that right fit. Each Sittercity caregiver has a comprehensive profile that includes photos, experience, references, other parents’ reviews, the ability to run third-party checks (such as background and motor-vehicle record checks), and more.
Q: Many Solo Moms are on a tight budget. Are there any fees associated with using your service? If so, what are they?
A: Sittercity is free for parents to join and post a job that specifies exactly what they need. Once the job has been posted, qualified sitters apply for the job. If parents see sitters they are interested in contacting directly, they can join our Premium membership, which is $140 per year, $70 for three months, or $35 per month.
Q: How are your candidates screened?
A: The key to helping parents find the right fit for their family is equipping them them all the tools and information they need to do so. To start, before caregivers can join Sittercity, we perform the following safety checks:
- Identity authentication. We use an independent identity authentication service that checks caregiver information against publicly available databases.
- Family Watchdog check. We check caregivers against Family Watchdog’s national sex offender registry at registration and regularly thereafter.
- Electronic surveillance. We use proprietary electronic surveillance tools to monitor caregiver communications for inappropriate content.
We recommend parents follow these steps to evaluate their options and ultimately determine which caregiver is right for them:
- Review caregiver profiles.
- Read reviews other parents have left on each caregiver.
- Review caregivers’ background checks.
- Conduct in-person interviews to gather additional information and gauge personality fit.
- Check caregiver references.
- Search for caregivers online, including social networks, to help spot potential red flags.
Q: I see that Sittercity has partnered with the Red Cross. Can you tell us a bit about that?
A: The American Red Cross has offered a babysitting course for some time now, geared toward the 13-year-old sitter just getting started. Last year, they launched a course geared toward older, more experienced sitters, which includes first aid and CPR certification. We believe in the high caliber of the Red Cross’s training, so we partnered with them to encourage our caregivers to take the course. Once a caregiver successfully completes the course and passes the certification process, we place a badge on their profile so parents know they passed the course and when they did so.
Q: Does Sittercity offer other services that parents, and particularly Solo Moms, might be interested in knowing about?
A: We do, actually! We have a new service called Date Night Now that has launched in Chicago and New York and will be expanding soon to other markets. The service enables parents to get a date-night sitter on demand rather than having to post a job. Date Night Now lets parents pick the date they want to go out and shows them three validated Date Night sitters who are available that evening. Parents can book and pay through the service, which makes the whole process incredibly quick and simple. We launched in late fall of last year and already have a growing base of both parents and sitters who love the program’s convenience.
Q&A with CEO and cofounder of UrbanSitter, Lynn Perkins
Q: How was UrbanSitter founded, and why?
A: I wanted the service to feature sitters reviewed by our friends, paired with the booking efficiency of OpenTable. That was the founding idea behind UrbanSitter: an online service that helps parents find babysitters recommended by friends and then book them online in minutes. As one of the cofounders, I was passionate about the mission, since I had two-year-old twin boys at the time. It was a problem I was excited to solve.
Q: How would a busy Solo Moms use UrbanSitter?
A: First, join UrbanSitter. It’s free and easy to set up an account in minutes on your computer or phone, or by downloading the UrbanSitter app. Simply log in with your Facebook or LinkedIn account to immediately view recommendations from your friends and personal network, or sign up with your email address.
Second, search or post a job. There are two ways to find a sitter: Either search for a sitter by the date you need help and use handy filters to view available sitters who meet your requirements, or post a job describing your specific needs and schedule (such as after-school nanny) and let interested sitters respond.
Third, browse and hire. As you’re browsing sitters, you’ll notice that the sitters connected to you through a friend or parenting group are shown first, so you can find someone you trust. Detailed profiles and videos include plenty of information and statistics to inform your decision. When you’re ready, scheduling a job or interview takes just a click.
Q: What is unique about UrbanSitter?
A: When it comes to hiring a sitter, parents say that the recommendation of a friend is what matters most. UrbanSitter uniquely brings the traditional process of friends recommending sitters to other friends online and makes it efficient.
Additionally, UrbanSitters keep their schedules online, so parents can book jobs and interviews instantly. And, at the end of the night, parents can pay their sitter through UrbanSitter.
Q: How does UrbanSitter use social media to connect parents?
A: Social networks are at the core of what makes UrbanSitter so useful. Any given parent has their own social circle of friends, colleagues, and other parents whose opinions they already trust—friends from Facebook, colleagues from LinkedIn, and a network of other parents from school, soccer teams, etc.
UrbanSitter acts as a central hub of information with the ability to make connections across multiple social networks, including Facebook, LinkedIn, and scattered “offline” local networks such as schools and parenting groups. So, as parents join, UrbanSitter is able to check for common connections and show a parent the exact sitters who have been hired and reviewed by parents in their own personal networks.
Q: What about background checks?
A: When care providers join UrbanSitter, they can purchase a background check, which is displayed prominently on their UrbanSitter profile. The background check is conducted by HireRight, one of the world’s largest providers of employment screening services.
It is important to remember that a background check is just one factor in deciding to hire a caregiver. Parents should do their own due diligence as they see fit; this may include checking references, researching the sitter’s track record, and conducting interviews.
Besides displaying whether or not a sitter has a background check, UrbanSitter offers helpful information about each sitter, including reviews from parents you and the sitter both know , the number of families the sitter has worked with more than once, and average response time.
Q: Does UrbanSitter offer anything that a Solo Mom might be particularly interested in?
A: If you’re a Solo Mom, every minute of the day counts. UrbanSitters have profile videos, so you can quickly screen candidates even late at night. In addition, many UrbanSitters have special talents, so it you aren’t great at soccer or you dread art projects, you can hire someone who will help nurture this skill in your child. Did the nanny call in sick or have an impromptu date? UrbanSitter is great at finding a last-minute nanny when you’re in a bind.
In addition, many UrbanSitters will provide extra services while caring for your children, such as laundry, housework, homework help, pet care, and errands. Need help managing pickups and drop-offs? UrbanSitter lets you search specifically for sitters who drive and have their own vehicles.
Q: Is there a fee for using the service?
A: UrbanSitter membership is $14.95 per month or $99.95 per year for parents.
Q: What feedback have you gotten from moms so far, particularly Solo Moms?
A: Lots of moms use the word “lifesaver” to describe how they feel about UrbanSitter. I’ve heard stories about UrbanSitters coming through in emergencies. In general, the feedback tells me that UrbanSitter is helping moms feel empowered and in control of their lives. One Solo Mom with two young boys told me that UrbanSitter gives her the freedom to schedule dates on the fly. I am so happy to hear that UrbanSitter is helping her do that.
Photo credit: Shutterstock.com
Anne Spollen lives happily as a Solo Mom to three kids and works as an author, a writer, and a college teacher.
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