Child Care Marketplaces Ramp Up Media Advertising
It seems we live in an era of fear-based parenting where every parent, regardless of socio-economic status, is bombarded with horrendous stories of what could befall their child if left with the wrong caregiver.
The internet, local and national media are awash with horrific stories of neglectful caregivers, child abductions and sexual and physical abusers. The dramatic rise in stories of this nature during the past few years begs the question whether these tragic occurrences are on the rise or just reported with greater regularity. Regardless, the coverage makes it feel as if danger is everywhere and every child a potential target or victim. This has caused a multitude of parents to search for more "professional" caregivers, centers and schools to for for their children.
“It certainly seems like a lot more stories are out there that get etched into the consciousness of parents,” says New York City psychotherapist Dr. Robi Ludwig. “We don’t know if these events are happening with any greater frequency than they did years ago, but we are hearing about them more and more. The pre-Oprah culture didn’t talk about these things as much. Today, what we watch on television and see in other media becomes our reality.”
Ten years ago companies acting as clearing houses for quality child care didn't exist. But the fear engendered in parents has caused the birth of an entirely new marketplace.
Shelia Lirio Marcelo founded Waltham, Massachusetts-based Care.com in 2007 where paid subscribers use the site to search for providers of a variety of caregiving services including elder and child care, babysitting and even dog walking. The company raised a reported $91 million from its IPO in January. Care.com’s first quarter revenue for 2014 jumped to $25.3 million from $18.2 million in the first quarter of last year. Second quarter earnings will be released on July 31.
According to Marcelo, the site currently has 5.8 million registered families and 4.9 million caregivers using the company’s services. Marcelo reports childcare services comprise two-thirds of the business with 60 percent of those customers seeking “after school care.” Marcelo makes note of the fact that while the company ”is not an agency, we’re a marketplace” the caregivers on the site have already undergone “an initial screening” which includes checking for “criminal records and sexual offender registries” as well as a review of their driving records. “Our role is to help facilitate an efficient way for families to find qualified care,” says Marcelo. “We still emphasize the importance of interviewing and checking references to families.”
While Marcelo declined to speculate on whether increasing concerns over children’s safety have new users turning to the site, she said, “In today’s mobile culture, there’s a natural vigilance (about childcare) when its not on your home turf” while also noting that “the topic of care is ubiquitous.” Care.com is also contributing to the conversation by increasing their advertising budget to include more television commercials as well as an expanded print and online campaign. “We’re even on buses!” says Marcelo.
“There are no guarantees,” says Marcelo, that users on Care.com will find a modern day Mary Poppins by using the site. Still, the mere idea that Care.com’s registered caregivers have gone through some vetting gives parents valuable peace of mind.
“This is not Craig’s List where you don’t have a sense of who these people are,” says Ludwig. “Even the idea of a gatekeeper is somewhat comforting. Sometimes it’s even more comforting than relying on your own judgment. It’s scary out there.”
As company's like Care.com begin to inundate the airwaves with their advertising, it most certainly behooves caregivers to become part of their database. It's just one more way to assure parents that their children will be safe in your hands.