"In rural northwest Arkansas, one of the country’s child care deserts,
it likely would have taken Morgan Edington many months before she found
a reliable sitter to care for her one-year-old son on the unlucky nights
when both she and her husband were called into work at the Clorox
factory a town away.
She could manage most days, when the two parents were on opposite
schedules. What she needed was what the child care industry calls
“backup care,” the kind taken up by friends, family members or the
occasional high school or college student when a parent is in a pinch.
If it’s paid at all, it’s often not enough, and, for parents like
Edington, who need it at odd hours, it’s usually unreliable.
Until recently, Edington would have had few options. She has no friends
or family nearby, and even big providers — like Care.com and Bright
Horizons, which offer backup care as an additional service — can’t
always fill the gap.
But that’s all been changing. The pandemic caused mass closures of child
care centers, putting a focus on just how weak the existing structures
for care really are. That sent parents — especially mothers — in search
Edington found hers in Helpr, a new, fast-growing service that allows
parents to screen and book sitters in their area for last-minute care
through an app. Parents can also add their own existing sitters —
siblings, parents, friends — to the database and help them get paid for
all the care they would typically perform for free. The service is paid
for by parents’ employers, who partner with Helpr to subsidize the care
as a work benefit. In the last year, Helpr has tripled its growth, now
reaching nearly 100,000 workers through partnerships at about 30
companies, including Snapchat parent Snap. It’s also influencing the
first piece of legislation in the country, out of California, that seeks
to mandate that large employers offer backup care."
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