One of the areas of parenting that has been especially difficult during the COVID-19 pandemic is finding childcare. Daycares are still limiting the numbers of children they can take, and with many districts virtual learning, sitters and nannies are busier than ever and in high demand.
An Akron-area business with a national app has solutions for parents seeking childcare support during COVID and non-COVID times. Komae, powered by Wana is the “free babysitting” app, a network for cooperative childcare. CEO Erin Beck explained it, “like a great big babysitting co-op, modernized onto a mobile app. On Komae, families take turns watching each other’s kids for points instead of dollars.”
Before the pandemic, parents on Komae were often exchanging night and weekend babysitting, daytime playdates, and even dog walking.
Now, parents are discovering even more ways to share their resources, and families are using Komae to create all-day care rotations for working parents, pods for distance learning help, and virtual playdates and tutoring sessions.
When a family joins Komae, the first thing they do is create a profile and indicate the type of care or learning they’re looking for, when they can reciprocate (if they’re able), and the COVID hygiene strategies they’re following.
Parents are always in control of the information they share, so each family chooses exactly what they are comfortable posting.
Families then connect with other families they know and trust within the Komae network. Many parents form groups within their child’s school or daycare, particularly to help form learning support groups for distance learners.
“We also support workplaces, where companies of all sizes can add Komae as an employee benefit to facilitate affordable, social, insulated care networks for their staff (we support businesses as big as 80,000 employees and as small as 12),” Beck said.
During COVID-19, there are advantages to cooperative care that traditional childcare may not be able to provide. Beck listed them as affordability, socialization and insulation.
All families who give and receive in-kind use Komae completely free. “If you can’t sit back, that’s OK, too,” Beck said. “We offer points for sale, always below market rate. (And if you earn extra points, you can redeem them for awesome, family-forward gifts, like oy-l.com, mbriotech.com Outback Ray!)”
In terms of socialization, as schools and daycares become less available as social connections for kids, families are looking for small bubbles of close friends to be their quaranteams. Komae provides exactly these closed circles, so kids get care while also nurturing their friendships.
Beck’s last advantage, insulation, was an a-ha moment. A closed babysitting circle can provide an insulated care network. When a set of families commits to exchanging care together, they can keep their bubble as tight as they wish.
“This is even more powerful when combined with other in-person commitments, like work or school, extending that relationship into the households, like sharing care between close coworkers,” Beck said.
Not to neglect one of the earlier parent support organizations in our series, Emily Baughman from the Early Childhood Resource Center in Canton, Ohio, who shared information about parent education and one-on-one coaching at the resource center, also provides childcare referral help.
“We are also a resource and referral agency that parents can utilize,” says Baughman. “Let’s say I am in need of childcare and I want specific childcare, for example I work the night shift, or I need XYZ qualifications,” she said. “We can actually refer that childcare to meet your need.”
To reach Baughman, and learn more about the Early Childhood Resource Center’s childcare, coaching, parenting classes and other resources and services, visit their website.
Julie is a mother of three and Professor of Practice at The University of Akron. Her hobbies include singing in the Cleveland Orchestra Chorus, Instagramming her kids and sleeping standing up.