Parents often face an uphill battle when they return to work. Some don't have adequate parental leave benefits, while others can't find an appropriate space in their office to pump and store breastmilk. On top of that, finding a reliable and affordable child care option can be a struggle.
A 2019 Center for American Progress (CAP) analysis of an Early Childhood Program Participation Survey concluded that half of U.S. families have difficulty finding child care. Adding insult to injury: Mothers surveyed said that if they had access to more affordable and reliable child care, they could increase their earnings and progress in their careers by finding a higher-paying job, applying for a promotion, seeking more hours at work, or finding a job in the first place.
It's clear that families need more reliable, trustworthy routes to finding quality child care that will make their lives easier. Here are six services aiming to offer just that.
What it is: A marketplace for daycare and preschool options near you, backed by a trusted community of parents and providers. Winnie has a website, as well as apps available on iPhone and Android devices.
"Parents use Winnie to discover high-quality local child care and learn all about their programs including detailed descriptions, photos, prices, and reviews from other parents," says co-founder Sara Mauskopf.
The company recently rolled out new features for child care providers to help them fill their open spaces and build their waitlists, notes Mauskopf. "Winnie also launched new search features for parents including the ability to search for drop-in daycare or find a child care option that matches their schedule," she notes.
Why it was created: Both Silicon Valley vets and millennial moms, Mauskopf and her co-founder Anne Halsall spent time at Google, Twitter, and YouTube before the two crossed paths at Postmates.
They started talking about where they could find baby-friendly spots around town and came up with the idea of creating a centralized hub where parents could trade tips on everything from local businesses with changing tables to child care.
Now, the company aims to offer child care solutions that work for them, whether that's a home daycare with flexible part-time scheduling or a center with longer hours that meets the needs of parents with professional jobs.
How it makes parents' lives easier: Mauskopf says that Winnie's users love that the site and app make it simple to understand your child care options. "Parents just enter their zip code and with one click they can see hundreds of local providers displayed on a map," she says. "They can easily browse and filter their list, save pages to review later, and compare programs by price, location, open spaces, and more. Last but not least, they can see important quality and safety information such as licensing status, investigations, and reviews from other parents."
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What it is: Having been around since 2001, SitterCity says they're the "OG tech platform simplifying the way parents find, book, and pay for reliable child care." Over the past 19 years, the web-based service has connected millions of parents with babysitters and nannies.
The platform functions kind of like a dating service for parents and caregivers. They offer ratings and reviews, personal references, detailed background checks, as well as identity verification and profile and message monitoring.
You can choose from regularly-scheduled nanny care, every day (like date night) babysitting, and specialty care (like senior care or pet care).
Why it was created: "As a working mother of two, I experience daily the challenges of finding, scheduling, communicating with, and paying the network of caregivers that helps raise our children," explains Elizabeth Harz, CEO of Sittercity. "I wanted to apply my passion for technology to a nearly universal problem."
How it makes parents' lives easier: "Parents love SitterCity because they have access to qualified sitters in 95 percent of the country, and the platform allows parents to browse reviews from fellow parents, review work history, qualifications and background check status, and schedule an interview by phone or in-person with just one tap," says Harz.
What it is: Described as the child care equivalent to Uber or Lyft, the Momni app uses "caresharing" technology. In other words, it's geared to helping parents find other parents who can offer child care as quickly as they could find a ride.
Parents are provided with profiles of 'host' parents in their designated search area, which shows their hourly rate, availability, experience, number of children they can accommodate, the ages of the kids they have, photos of their home and family, and other pertinent information. The app also has filters so parents can find exactly what they're looking for, such as a host who has pets or kids around the same age.
Why it was created: In 2017, Karmel Larson, a mom of 8, came up with the idea of a sharing economy of parents providing child care for each other, which might help supply issues of the global care crisis and simultaneously provide family-friendly, flexible income for parents at home.
How it makes parents' lives easier: The speed with which you can book last-minute care from a trusted parent in your area is the main perk Momni offers. Others include a trusted verification process and background checks and the ability to connect with other families in your community.
4. Urban Sitter
What it is: Urban Sitter is equal parts social network and caregiver matchmaking service, with a website as well as iOS and Android apps. The idea is that you'll get sitter recommendations based on who you know and who they're using and love. The app's Sitter Lists show the most popular, highly-reviewed sitters as rated by parents across school, neighborhood, church, or parents groups. There are more than 250K groups represented on the platform.
Why it was created: "I love to connect people and when I had two young kids, I would constantly meet other parents and they'd say, 'You have a great nanny or babysitter, we're having a hard time finding somebody,'" says Lynn Perkins, CEO and co-founder. They would also tell her that they'd love to be introduced to a friend of Perkins' caregiver, because they would trust that connection. Perkins soon realized that creating a network of trusted parents and caregivers would make the child care hunt easier.
How it makes parents' lives easier: In addition to the fact that every caregiver available to book on UrbanSitter has passed a background check, including a SSN Trace, Public State & County Criminal Records Check, and a check against the Global Watchlist, parents can search for sitters based on their availability, as well as book and pay through the site or app (which sends reminders and contact details).
5. The Motherlode
Courtesy of Motherfigure.com
What it is: A feature of the maternal wellness startup Motherfigure, The Motherlode is "like Yelp for moms," explains founder Chelsea Allison. So, while Motherlode won't put you in touch with a child care provider, it's a national, community-driven directory of maternal wellness service providers and specialists (such as doulas, pelvic floor physical therapists, and lactation consultants) which notes whether providers do home visits or have child care on-site.
"This can obviate the need to get child care for an appointment," says Allison.
Why it was created: "There are countless barriers to parents, particularly moms, when it comes to taking care of themselves: finding the right provider, figuring out how to pay for it, deciding whether or not to get a babysitter, the sheer logistics of leaving the house," says Allison. "Navigating appointments where children aren't welcome or where they'd be a distraction adds stress, leading mothers to continue to put their own health and care second. Our goal is to empower moms and moms-to-be and lower the barriers to getting support. Our aim is to make it so that parents don't have to choose between caring for themselves and caring for their children."
How it makes parents' lives easier: "It makes it super easy to find providers in their area, enabling them to filter for the criteria relevant to them," says Allison. "For example, they can search for lactation consultants who do home or virtual visits, or they can read reviews from other parents about physical therapy offices that have great child accommodations."
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What it is: Care.com is the world’s largest online destination for finding and managing family care, serving more than 20.6 million families across 20 countries. The service is available on mobile, desktop, and in the iPhone and Android app stores.
"Care.com offers of an array of services and tools that enable families to find, manage, and pay for care and make more informed hiring decisions, wherever care needs arise," says Erica Scheik, chief brand officer for Care.com. "These include a robust suite of safety tools and resources, easy ways for caregivers to be paid and obtain professional benefits, household tax and payroll services for families, and customized corporate benefits packages covering child care and senior care services."
Why it was created: Sheila Lirio Marcelo founded Care.com in 2006 after struggling as a young working mom to find care for two small children and ailing parents. "This shed a spotlight on the massive care needs of families everywhere," says Scheik.
How it makes parents' lives easier: The sheer breadth of providers on the site is a huge benefit to parents. More than 14.6 million caregivers are on the platform.
With a free basic membership, families can preview the site's services, browse through active caregivers on the site, receive responses from caregivers, utilize the Safety Center, which offers tips and tools to keep kids safe, receive tip-and advice-filled newsletters, and access care-related content in the platform's online community. Premium members who pay for a subscription have the ability to view full profiles and reviews, contact caregivers directly, and request background checks.