Program helps parents find child care

As summer approached, Carson City attorney Kay Ellen Armstrong found herself without a babysitter for her two children.

She usually relied on referrals from one babysitter to find another.

"This time, it just wasn't working," she said. "All of the high school kids had moved on."

She wasn't sure where to begin looking until she saw a flier at a swimming pool advertising a new program that helps parents find quality child care providers.

Child Care Choices began nearly three years ago in Philadelphia after Beth Bokunewicz had to quit her teaching job because she could not find appropriate child care.

After researching for about two years, she established the company that researches potential care givers for parents who are looking for babysitters or nannies.

"I started to hear the cries of everyone else around me who couldn't find good child care," she said. "As we delved into it, we found the need was just huge."

The great need inspired the expansion of the company to four other states. About two months ago, Melisa Hutchings and Amy Palmer opened a branch in Carson City to serve Northern Nevada.

"We do all the legwork for the parents," Hutchings said. "We're both moms, so that makes it more important to us."

After seeing the flyer at the pool, Armstrong called Hutchings for help.

"It was really great. They found a babysitter who matched my needs," Armstrong said. "It was no hassle to find her because they went through the hassle for me."

As part of the process to research potential child caregivers, Hutchings and Palmer conduct a criminal background check.

They also go into the home of the applicant to conduct an interview and survey the environment.

Based on their observations and the results of the background check, the two decide whether the babysitter will be included in the program.

For Armstrong, Hutchings recommended Leanne Pedlar.

Pedlar is a full-time student at Plymouth State College in New Hampshire and at home this summer with her parents, who recently moved to Carson City.

She had been a babysitter before and had always relied on references from other clients to get jobs.

However, being new to the area, she had no references. Then she saw an advertisement for Child Care Choices in the newspaper.

"I really enjoy working with kids and it seemed like a good way to get potential clients," she said.

After the interview process, Hutchings hooked up Pedlar and Armstrong.

"They were so nice and they pretty much set me up with a job," Pedlar said. "I wouldn't have ever gotten the job if I wouldn't have been pre-screened."

When Hutchings and Palmer decided to open a franchise in Nevada, Bokunewicz came to research the area.

"Nevada is sort of an enigma," she said. "It has a huge demographics that include a lot of young families but it is not used to being family friendly."

She said this service is badly needed in an area where the main focus is on tourism and adults and pays little attention to children.

Armstrong agrees.

"They are my children. They're the most important people in the world to me," Armstrong said. "I feel good knowing they're safe with this particular sitter."

For more information call Melisa Hutchings at 841-3672


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