Need a babysitter or a caregiver? Use your smartphone to find one near you
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TORONTO — Karen Barzilay recently found herself in a bind when she was unexpectedly called into work while her nanny was out of the country.
With no one available to care for her three young daughters, the 40-year-old television producer — like any desperate, tech-savvy parent — turned to social media and posted her dilemma on Facebook.
That's when her neighbours told her about BookJane, a mobile app they created to help Torontonians find caregivers on demand.
Within hours, Barzilay was able to narrow down her search to three candidates with the qualifications she was looking for: someone who was active, who had children of their own and was comfortable cooking a few family meals.
"I was in a predicament when I went to the app. I was a little apprehensive. It's a nerve-wracking, meeting someone and saying, 'Here are the kids and I'm going to work now,'" she said.
But she was reassured after seeing "Jane" with her children, who were kept busy throughout the week with bike rides, park visits and baking banana bread.
BookJane founder and chief executive, Curtis Khan, describes the app as the Uber for babysitters and elderly caregivers.
"People are ready. Uber has paved the way. Airbnb has paved the way," said Khan, a former marketing executive. "They're looking more and more to technology."
Since launching in July, Khan says BookJane now has a database of 2,000 caregivers and 500 clients in Greater Toronto, including individuals, childcare centres and hospitals.
Users can find a caregiver for their children or elderly parents within a few clicks and book for as little as one hour or for the day — at a rate of $21 an hour for a childcare provider and $25 an hour for a personal support worker for a senior.
Payments are made directly through the app with a credit card, with BookJane taking $4.20 to $5 an hour for making the connection.
The app lets users chat online with prospective hires and track their movements while on the job in real-time.
Khan said listed caregivers have to pass stringent qualifications including an extensive in-person interview, a police check, a vulnerable sector check, provide references, be certified in CPR and First Aid, and either hold designations in early childhood education or personal support work. The approval process, on average, takes about two weeks.
BookJane also provides liability insurance of up to $5 million, and hires can be filtered through various parameters including years of experience and languages spoken. Users and caregivers are also given a rating following a job.
Khan said the idea for the app came to him and his wife, a private daycare provider, when they ran into obstacles hiring a temporary worker to care for an ill parent.
"The sandwich generation have parents who are aging, and they have kids who are younger," he said. "They're managing each one. It's not the easiest time."
Apps such as BookJane are cropping up as an alternative to traditional hiring methods, such as online classified sites like Kijiji and Craigslist and traditional nanny agencies.
Elize Shirdel created the app DateNight in 2014 as a way to link parents with babysitters in their neighbourhoods.
"A lot of parents use the app for date nights, for after-school care, to run to IKEA to buy a sofa, or to look at houses," said Shirdel, a mother of two boys.
DateNight, which is currently in Toronto and Ottawa, has a directory of more than 400 pre-screened babysitters, many of whom are high school and university students.
Babysitters are booked for a minimum of two hours, and paid between $10 to $17 an hour, with the app taking a 10 per cent cut for administrative costs.
Follow @LindaNguyenTO on Twitter.
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