Improving Childcare Services

Ed. Note: Champions of Change is a weekly initiative to highlight Americans who are making an impact in their communities and helping our country rise to meet the many challenges of the 21st century.

There is an oft-ignored childcare crisis going on in homes across the nation.

Families today look much different than they did 40 years ago. Thanks to a number of technological and social innovations and advancements, parents in the United States today have fewer children than ever before and are having those children at a later age. At the same time, Americans are more likely than ever to live apart from extended family, including the second parent (34% of all families in the US are headed by a single parent today compared to just 11% in 1970).

These changes mean that more parents are raising children without the support of relatives or a close-knit community. And that is not a good thing. Humans are built to live in tribes; we have collaboration hard-wired into our DNA. “We know that the best predictor of human happiness is human relationships and the amount of time that people spend with family and friends,” says Harvard professor and Stumbling on Happiness author, Daniel Gilbert. Family and friends mean support, both in terms of childcare and overall emotional well-being. Unfortunately, for many American parents and children, that time is decreasing.

Lacking close-knit and proximate networks, families turn to paid sitters for their childcare needs. This, however, is a flawed solution. First of all, finding a good sitter is a time-intensive exercise and requires substantial vetting on the part of the parent. Second, scheduling that sitter is stressful, since there is always a decent chance he or she won’t be available. Third, the “use or lose” mentality leads to sitter hoarding and parents don’t share resources with each other. Finally, paid sitters are expensive. At an average of $10 an hour, babysitting can more than double the cost of a night out.

It was thinking about the problematic nature of the current childcare model – and experiencing it all too well firsthand – that led me to the solution of babysitting cooperatives and to the creation of SittingAround.  Babysitting coops are groups of families who trade childcare with each other, and SittingAround is the website we built to make it easy to run babysitting coops.

Babysitting coops transform childcare from a one-to-one transaction to a many-to-many transaction, making it easy for families to find and coordinate the highest-quality care. Best of all, they allow people to form modern “adopted” tribes that provide many of the benefits of extended family, including having a strong network support. Supported parents are happier parents, and happier parents lead to healthier families. Healthy families benefit everyone.

SittingAround is more than just a website. We are evangelists for the peer-to-peer childcare model, advocates for a better, more efficient way of providing modern support to modern families. Parents today have enough to worry about without the ever-present stress of finding and coordinating babysitters they can trust. Our goal is to revolutionize the way families consume childcare all across the nation, and in doing so, to strengthen community ties and improve quality of life for millions of Americans.

Erica Zidel is the Founder and CEO of SittingAround.

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