Yale sitters aid rushed parents

Jeffrey Levick’s friends from Boston were coming to New Haven for a visit. The friends have a child, but Levick, who works in the East Asian Studies Department, wanted to be able to go out for a night without kids. Since he does not have any young children, he did not have a regular babysitter and did not know where he could find one. Fortunately, thanks to Yale Babysitting last-minute care, Levick was able to register on the Yale Babysitting Web site to help secure a babysitter for his night out.

The Web site’s short-notice babysitting option is the newest addition to the University childcare initiative announced in November. By allowing both parents and students to register on the Web site, the University aims to provide its staff with a convenient solution to babysitting needs and students with extra job opportunities. But Yale Babysitting last-minute care, which was created in February, has not yet attracted as many clients as administrators predicted.

The University stated in its childcare initiative that it will have a back-up plan available at the new childcare center to provide families with the opportunity for a last-minute babysitter, no matter what their primary care is. Until backup care is available in the new center, Yale plans to make in-home backup care a possibility. “Yale University Summary of Child Care Survey Findings,” which reported the findings of a survey completed last May, found that before this initiative, backup care was tied as the biggest childcare difficulty for Yale affiliates.

One way the University has helped make in-home last-minute care a possibility is by allowing parents to post last-minute babysitting opportunities on the Yale Babysitting Web site. Students can register on Yale Babysitting in order to be considered for babysitting jobs in the Yale and New Haven communities. This database allows parents to view babysitters’ resumes and training certifications, such as CPR and first aid. Students, who are privy to all jobs available on the Web site, can choose whether or not to allow parents to see their contact information. This allows students to decide whether they would like to be pursued for babysitting jobs or whether they would like to have parents contact them about employment possibilities. Students registered on Yale Babysitting can also opt to receive e-mails informing them of last-minute jobs.

Susan Abramson, WorkLife program coordinator at the Organizational Development and Learning Center, said she hopes more parents will continue to use the service.

“This is a new feature,” Abramson said. “It has been very popular, and over 200 registered Yale baby-sitters have registered to receive the e-mails, and a few more sitters sign up every week to be a part of it.”

Abramson said the Web site is popular with students who want to earn a little extra money while having fun babysitting. She said that at least three or four times per week, a student e-mails her requesting to be added to the list of possible last-minute care providers. There are 679 total students registered on the Yale Babysitting Web site, and more are added every week.

Some parents said they have found the service beneficial as well. Levick, who used the service to find last-minute child care for a visiting friend’s child, said he enjoyed the service.

“I have only used it once, but I found it very effective,” Levick said. “Everything worked out very well.”

Levick said he found a babysitter less than a day after posting on the Yale Babysitting Web site, and he said he would use the system again if he should ever need another babysitter.

Erika Schroth, another client of Yale Babysitting, said she found the service successful as well. She usually gets prompt responses to her requests for a sitter “almost within hours,” she said. This rapid response is helpful so that parents can know quickly whether or not to look elsewhere for a sitter, she said.

Abramson said she has had positive reactions from parents about the quick turnaround.

“I have heard from a few people who have e-mailed the service that they like the option and that they have received numerous responses from people interested in filling the last-minute jobs,” Abramson said.

But the last-minute care option has not been as popular as it has the potential to be — while there are 804 parents registered on the Web site, Abramson approximated that the last-minute care option has only been used about 30 times. While some of this may be attributed to the lack of need for last-minute care, the May 2005 survey said otherwise. Overall, the biggest child-care concern for the faculty, staff and student respondents was the fact that backup care was unavailable.

The survey also found that a lack of awareness of Yale Babysitting was another issue: Only 53 percent of the respondents knew about the service. Dr. Stephanie Spangler, the deputy provost for biomedical and health affairs, said last-minute care is only the first step in solving challenges associated with childcare.

“The last-minute care should help, but we will be coming out with a complementary program,” Spangler said in an e-mail. This complementary program will be released with the announcement that the advisory committee is currently creating.

The Yale Babysitting Web site has a list of rules and tips for both the parents and the baby-sitters. Some of these rules are that baby-sitters may never bring children into Yale dorms for any reason and that it is the parents’ responsibility to post jobs. These tips also suggest that parents ask for referrals and that student baby-sitters arrive with enough time to discuss instructions with the parents before the parents must leave. The Web site also includes links to sites that suggest fun things to do while baby-sitting and tips for sitters to make baby-sitting as safe and as profitable as possible.

The Childcare Directory is another service on Yale’s Web site through which a parent can search for baby-sitters by company name, by town, by ages served and by accreditation. This allows parents not only to search for student baby-sitters, but for center-based care and for regular family-based care with ease. This search engine has a link to mapquest.com so that parents can determine the distance from the child-care location to their home or work easily.

Although the new last-minute care option on the Yale Babysitting Web site has not been as popular as its creators hoped, administrators and families said the benefits far outweigh the costs.

“What I’ve seen is that it has provided additional jobs for students, and it has absolutely complemented child-care opportunities that members of the Yale community have,” Abramson said. “They have been able to use it for weekends or school vacations.”

Other parts of the child-care initiative include plans to construct a new child-care center on or near campus to help increase the availability of reliable infant, toddler and preschool care, to increase funding so more sliding-scale scholarships can be given and to allow staff to use their sick days to care for ill children and other eligible relatives.

Spangler said an announcement of a description of further programs will be released in the future. Spangler also said she is unsure when the new child-care center will be completed. Currently, the Provost’s Office is working on several of the programs announced in the initiative, but Spangler said specifics have not yet been finalized.

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