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June 5, 2013

Parents consider options while school’s out for the season

By Tiffany Esshaki
C & G Staff Writer

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Parents consider options while school’s out for the season
Liam Reeve and Hailey Manyard team up to water plants in a garden at the Lakeshore Family YMCA while David Scheel, center, looks on during a past program. YMCA works to keep kids busy all season at the organization’s popular summer day camps.

As kids anxiously await the arrival of summer, parents are weighing their summer child care options. From day camps to sitters, there’s a lot to consider when choosing who your youngster will spend their summer break with.

That predicament is all too familiar for Leslie Toth. It wasn’t long ago that she and her husband were looking for care for their children and were having a hard time finding someone they trusted. They heard about SeekingSitters, a national franchise service that helps families find one-time or long-term child care options. They loved the idea so much, they decided to open their own branch in metro Detroit.

“We had friends struggling with the same thing, and we heard about SeekingSitters and we thought, ‘What a great idea.’ And we brought it to Detroit,” she said. “At the time we started it, the economy was down and we were skeptical. But families are always looking for good child care. Children are your most prized possession, so people are willing to spend a little more to know that your child is going to be safe.”

For a one-time membership fee, parents use SeekingSitters’ database of child care specialists who have been screened with background, credit and reference checks, and then are personally interviewed. Toth said that with Michigan’s economy on the rebound, SeekingSitters is busier than ever.

Jennifer Shand, of Oak Park, loves to baby sit, but she doesn’t work for a service that sends her to meet new families each week. She’s a private nanny for a family living in Birmingham. She said the connection kids make with a nanny or regular sitter, as well as the trust built with parents, is something that can’t be found with an occasional babysitter or summer camp.

“I adore them and the family I work for so much. They bring me so much joy,” she said. “It’s not a 9-5 job, and you don’t have coworkers. But the reward is so much greater than the work.”

Shand added that her job description goes well beyond that of an ordinary babysitter — she runs errands, drives kids to sports and school activities, grocery shops, and more. Some nannies are able to lend a hand to busy parents, while giving kids a customized vacation that takes summer fun beyond the backyard, to places like museums, water parks and nature centers. She said, though, that communication is key when it comes to figuring out daily schedules and parents’ expectations.

If you ask Brian Frawley, community programs director for the Macomb Family YMCA in Mount Clemens, summer day camps can provide the socialization kids need to burn off the energy they’ve been storing up throughout the school year.

“It’s not just babysitting. It’s children making connections and memories with other children and staff in a positive manner that will help them develop socially,” said Frawley.

At the Macomb Family YMCA, staff are busy planning a whole summer’s worth of fun for kids who want to come every day, in lieu of child care, or just sporadically throughout the season. Each day, around 75 kids head to the Y for a full day of swimming, sports, arts and crafts, field trips, and even character-development projects.

“They stay busy. We try to get the kids involved, whether it’s writing a news article for our paper or picking activities for next summer,” he said. “The best compliment I receive from parents is when they ask what I did to their children, because they fall asleep before dinner.”

And just like a nanny service, YMCA ensures that all staff are background-checked, carefully trained and certified in first-aid, oxygen, CPR and AED techniques.

But where the Y really excels, Frawley said, is in giving kids a fun and educational experience with their peers — one they’ll remember for years to come.

“With young children today, there’s a sense of belonging and a sense of community that we miss. The Y has a community, and the Y is someplace you can belong to and feel like you’re a part of something bigger.”

For more information about SeekingSitters, visit www.SeekingSitters.com. For more information about camps at the YMCA, visit www.ymcadetroit.org.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Tiffany Esshaki at tesshaki@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1095.