Brian Mannix was living in Sea Cliff when the idea for Babysitting Barter was born four years ago. He was planning to attend a local theater event, and he asked a friend if she was also going. "She said she couldn't get a sitter," Mannix says.
Wouldn't it be great, Mannix thought, if there were an easier way to line up trustworthy child care? So the father of three boys created Babysitting Barter, a Long Island-centric online site with dual goals: One, to let friends and family set up a formal baby-sitting exchange where they'd earn "points" for watching each others' children, and two, to form a database of trusted sitters that could be hired when no one from the co-op was available.
The exchange concept appeals to mom Agnes Beleznay of Glen Cove, who has signed on to the new site. "We have this little community in the neighborhood. This is setting up more structure for what we were trying to do," says the mother of three children ages 8, 9 and 10.
Beleznay also has used the site to hire a sitter at the last minute. "I really needed someone. The experience turned out great," she says. "She was a very sweet girl."
Babysitting Barter officially launched Feb. 27 with a kickoff cocktail party at Jewel restaurant in Melville. Here are details on the new site, along with some other ways to find baby-sitters online:
WHO RUNS IT Mannix and business partner Lauren Conlon of Glen Head, a teacher at Great Neck South Middle School
HOW IT WORKS Parents can use the platform for free to trade baby-sitting with family and friends. With a click, a baby-sitting request is sent to the parents' entire co-op village. People willing to sit will respond. They are credited in virtual points that they can then use when they need a sitter. If parents want to connect with paid baby-sitters, they can hire baby-sitters that friends in the neighborhood have used or sitters whose site profile they like. For that, parents pay a fee (starting at $5) to the website and also directly pay the baby-sitter the going rate. Baby-sitters will like the site, Mannix says, because they earn a "barter bonus" each time they sit that can be redeemed for cash or coupons and gift cards for area businesses. Baby-sitters can sign up for free. Businesses, such as local restaurants, can also post events on a date-night platform and sitters can sign up to be available for that evening.
WHO RUNS IT A Chicago-based company runs the nationwide site, which has been in business since 2001.
HOW IT WORKS Parents post a job they need filled and any requirements such as first-aid certification or years of experience, says Melissa Marchwick, executive vice president of brand communications for Sitter City. Then the job is sent to all qualified sitters or nannies in the geographic area. Those interested apply for the job via the site. Parents pay a subscription rate of $35 a month for unlimited usage with discounts for longer periods, and they pay the sitter directly for the job. Parents also can browse sitters in their area and handpick particular people. Sitters sign up for the site for free.
WHO RUNS IT Massachusetts-based company that launched in 2007 and offers child care, senior care, pet car, special-needs care, housekeeping and tutoring
HOW IT WORKS Parents sign up to use the site starting at $39 plus tax for one month, says Meredith Robertson, senior public relations manager for Care.com. This allows them to create a profile and post jobs. Caregivers will respond to the post, and parents decide whom to hire. They can either pay the baby-sitter directly or through the site. Baby-sitters also pay a fee starting at $39 plus tax for one month to receive job postings.
WHO RUNS IT Nebraska-based company began its online service in 2008 and serves the United States and Canada
HOW IT WORKS Families punch in their ZIP code on the home page and it will bring up available baby-sitters looking for work, says Candi Wingate, owner and president of Babysitters 4 Hire. Families pay a monthly fee of $19.99, plus an initial $10 registration fee, or yearly option of $99.99 to be able to post jobs and contact sitters. Parents pay the sitter directly. Baby-sitters post profiles for free, including their experience, availability and more, and can reply to jobs posted.
Long Islanders interested in finding out more about how to get jobs through BabysittingBarter.com are invited to a free bowling event at 6 p.m. April 13 at Massapequa Bowl & Lounge, 4235 Merrick Rd., Massapequa. 516-541-8000; sign up at babysittingbarter.com.