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Families find nanny shares when day care is hard to find, cost unaffordable

Nicole Villalpando
Austin American-Statesman

The coronavirus pandemic has had many working parents getting creative with child care. Some have found ways to flex their hours around kids' schedules while keeping kids at home. Others have partnered with neighbors, friends and family to trade off coverage or get some assistance. Some have found smaller in-home day cares or even returned to their regular day care provider once child care options reopened last May. 

Kristen Brooks found herself working from home with 2-year-old son Owen and pregnant with Emma, who is now 5 months old, when the pandemic hit.

At first she and her husband split up their work hours. She would work 6 a.m. to noon, while he watched Owen, and then her husband would start his day at work. After Owen went to bed, she would do more work at night.

"It was a bit insane," she says. 

Nanny  Becca Taylor takes care of  Ellie, Rory, Boone, and Jojo as part of Village Childcare's nanny share program.

They needed help and would have hired a nanny or created their own nanny share, but there were so many questions: How do you find and vet a nanny? How do you create a contract? How do you deal with taxes? All the details felt overwhelming.

She put out feelers for a baby-sitter or nanny and thought she'd get a hundred responses. She didn't get any.

Then she discovered Village Childcare, which specializes in nanny shares. The business matches families together to share a nanny's services and helps the families chose a nanny. It also deals with all the paperwork including payment, taxes and contracts.

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Village Childcare helped Brooks find the other family, who lived not far away and had a son who was five months younger than Owen. The families worked together to choose from a selection of nannies that Village Childcare had vetted.

It also helped the families think through their parenting differences as well as logistics, such as who would host, what happens if someone gets sick or has a COVID-19 exposure, how the space and food would be shared and when kids would nap. They also helped with figuring out hours for the nanny share and how they would handle the nanny's or their own vacations.

Nanny shares allow families to keep kids cared for at home or another family's home for less money than a traditional nanny arrangement.

"Village helped us bring the concept to life in a confident way," Brooks says. "There were so many pieces." 

Brooks did a nanny share for Owen from last May to February. At that point, Emma needed care, and Brooks opted for a more traditional day care, she says, because her kids were so developmentally different and needed different things from a caregiver. 

What she now realizes about the nanny share is her kids didn't get as sick as often. Since they've been back in day care, she's had three weeks with her kids home because of illness.

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She also says, "I loved that he had the day-to-day interaction with the nanny," she says. "I love the relationship they formed." 

Their nanny continues to baby-sit for them from time to time.   

Drew Giovannoli started Village Childcare after he experienced long waiting lists at local child care centers when his daughter, Ellie, was an infant. She's now 2.

Heading back to work after paternity and maternity leave, he and his wife, Alexandra, still had not found a day-care spot. They thought about hiring a nanny, but they couldn't afford the cost on their own. 

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Once he started the process of trying to find a nanny and saw what services were out there and the price, he began reaching out to other families and decided to start Village Childcare. 

For a nanny share, Village Childcare charges $470 a week for each child, which Giovannoli estimates is 42 percent less than a traditional nanny. Giovannoli says 90 percent of it goes directly to the nanny's pay. The rest is Village Childcare's administrative costs.

Nanny Becca Taylor works inside one family's home while another family brings over their children. Some nanny share programs alternate locations; others stay at the same house each day.

Most nanny shares are two families each with one child, but sometimes three families will work together or families will have more than one child. There is a sibling discount.

The nannies work a traditional 40-hours-a-week schedule, typically 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. or 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Village Childcare matches only for full-time care right now because finding families and nannies that want compatible part-time hours becomes more difficult. 

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Since launching Village Childcare, Giovannoli says he's found that most families are looking for care for kids who are infant to age 3 or 4, at which point families tend to choose a preschool setting. 

Village Childcare saw a big wave of new nanny shares the second half of last year as families began to need child care while trying to work from home, but weren't comfortable going back into a day-care situation or became used to having their kids nearby. As day-care classroom sizes shrank to be compliant with COVID-19 safety measures or as day cares closed because of profitability questions around staying open with the new measures, families began to have more problems finding child care.

The concept of creating a school pod for older kids also began to filter down to younger kids.

Families who decide to do the hosting have to have a small space in the house that can be used for play, a space for eating and for naps. Nannies get creative about using both indoor and outdoor spaces as well as nearby parks to keep kids engaged but not distracting to parents trying to work at home. 

"Our job is to make sure it's a great experience," Giovannoli says, and that includes for the nanny working with the kids, the kids and the parents. "It's important to us that it's a great fit."