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How this SouthCoast child care service has helped working families through the pandemic
The Standard Times - 4/16/2021
Apr. 16—NEW BEDFORD — COVID has taken a toll on many small businesses, but Mamas and Babysitters continues to thrive.
"It's really like family support," said Kari Wright, a client of the babysitting service.
Wright is a single mother of three and a visiting nurse in New Bedford. With daycare and schools closed in the summer and early fall due to COVID, she relied heavily on her own mother and father to look after her children ages 2, 7 and 9. Her mother is a nurse and her father is a fisherman, so finding a babysitter was a priority for Wright because she was tired of shuffling her kids between houses. After asking for recommendations for a trustworthy babysitter in the SouthCoast Mamas and Babies Facebook group, owner Jennifer Potter reached out to her and informed her of her other business, Mamas and Babysitters.
"She told me it's not just a quick, two-day thing, that she was going to find somebody that you will feel completely connected to," Wright said.
As a mother of three herself in Westport, Potter said she knows how hard it is to find good, quality child care.
Potter's in-depth matching process is different from those of other online babysitting services. She evaluates the personalities of parents, children and the babysitter and makes sure they are compatible on all levels of work and life habits, not just from a babysitting standpoint.
Wright said before matching with her current babysitter, Potter asked her endless questions about her children, herself and her hobbies, home life, daily challenges and her job. Now, Wrights says her babysitter works so well with both her and her children that she considers her family — she even helps clean and pack for the family's current moving process. She said the babysitter not only tailors to all of her children's needs but also has fun and enjoys spending time with them.
"The kids get upset when I come home," Wright laughed.
Potter's babysitters go through an extensive hiring process of background checks and multiple interviews, and she requires three "raving" references.
"The staff works directly with me, not a big dot-com website," Potter said. "My goal is to help other families feel comfortable with someone else in their home. I only choose people who I'd feel comfortable walking through my door."
In addition to these typical processes, Potter follows COVID-19 safety protocols since launching her business in September. She pays close attention to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations as well as guidelines suggested in schools. If a client or employee comes in contact with COVID, a 14-day quarantine is required whether or not the person decides to get tested. Masks are worn in homes and COVID screening questions are sent to both employees and clients the day before service. Potter said that her employees have taken any symptoms seriously, even cancelling service at the smallest sign of a runny nose, but not without a back-up sitter who meshes well with the family.
"I'm overly cautious," Potter said.
Potter has a variety of staff, including part-time nannies for those working from home with kids still following a remote model. Those employees work on average three to five times per week for three to four hours per day.
"My vision was for the working families who wanted to keep their kids at home," Potter said. "It turned into a necessity for the average working parent."
Potter's largest client base includes health care workers, teachers and parents who work from home, in that order. She said that even though working from home gives some flexibility in caring for children, some families still need that in-home child care.
Potter also serves on the board of directors at Junior Achievement of Southern Massachusetts, an organization that guides youth to plan for the future and make smart academic and economic choices.
Jeffrey Pelletier, president of the Southern Massachusetts branch, has worked closely with Mamas and Babysitters' tutoring program. Students needed assistance in the areas of math and science, as COVID has created a difficult learning environment being virtual, Pelletier said.
"It's just a really outstanding, new local company that I think is fulfilling a really important need," Pelletier said. "In this new normal, it's great to have a local resource that can help youth, parents and families balance between parents working and school happening and keep things going in the household."
Pelletier emphasized Potter's professional, locally-minded and safety-first presence in the community as families continue to move forward with work and school.
"I want to create that word-of-mouth type of advertisement through families," Potter said. "You trust someone because of their reputation, not what they post or say online or in an article, but through trust within the community."
Potter hopes her younger employees, such as nursing students, use her company as a springboard and can have a professional reference added to their resumes.
"Babysitting is one of the biggest jobs in the country," Potter said. "It's the only one not regulated, no protection around it."
Potter initially planned to launch the business in February 2020 but held off until September due to the pandemic. She hired her first employee in September upon launching and now manages just over 25 employees. She said her husband supports her 150% with her passion to turn babysitting into a profession.
Mamas and Babysitters is a woman-owned and operated full service babysitting, nannying and tutoring company locally offered in the SouthCoast region, stretching from Wareham to Seekonk.
Her other business, SouthCoast Mamas and Babies, is a local online community that acts a resource for families. Initially a play group, it now offers a platform for parents and guardians to ask communicate and ask questions, connecting businesses and families. Facebook now allows users to ask anonymous questions for those who would like more privacy.
For more information, visit mamasandbabysitters.com.
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