Parenting benefits company Cleo partners with UrbanSitter to address the US childcare crisis

Parenting benefits company Cleo is partnering with on-demand childcare service UrbanSitter to address a problem facing many parents today amid the pandemic: a lack of childcare, even as they’re required to return to work. With summer camps, daycares and schools shut down for the months ahead, parents who need to work outside the home (or even inside, but without distraction) no longer have options. Cleo’s new solution, Cleo Care, powered by UrbanSitter, aims to address this problem. The company is offering a package to employers that will help connect families with vetted caregivers via concierge support or, as an alternative, with family co-op options, depending on the parents’ preference.

The program will additionally include access to other Cleo support programs, like one-on-one coaching and age-appropriate programs focused on developmental milestones, delivered weekly.

The launch of the new product arrives at a time when the coronavirus outbreak has caused a childcare crisis in the U.S. Working parents have become homeschool teachers, on top of their already overwhelming number of duties. Parents fortunate enough to work from home, however, are continually interrupted by children’s needs, leading to longer working hours to accomplish tasks, and often mental and physical exhaustion.

Cleo surveyed its member base in April 2020, roughly 80% of whom are in the U.S., and found that more than 50% of respondents didn’t have any childcare options due to the pandemic’s impact. It also learned that 1 in 5 families (with two parents) were considering having one partner leave the workforce in order to manage the care of the children. Meanwhile, 37% were considering having family move in.

Among those who were working, more than half felt their productivity was 75% or less than usual. And 1 in 4 felt their productivity was less than 50% of baseline.

The problem is massive. In the U.S. alone, there are 30.5 million working families, based on Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The Cleo Care solution will be made available to U.S. employers this month to give parents more options, as well as help employers to bring their staff back to work, when the time comes.

Of course, there’s a variety of opinions about how and when the U.S. should re-open its economy. But the reality is that some parents will need to return to their jobs ahead of the re-opening of child care centers or summer camp programs, many of which have been canceled. In Facebook groups, parents are already trying to solve the problem for themselves by organizing with neighbors for childcare co-ops or by hiring teens or college students for daytime babysitting jobs.

But not everyone has these options. And employers can’t just direct staff to Facebook to find a caregiver.

Instead, the Cleo Care program will provide member parents with concierge support for finding vetted care providers from the UrbanSitter network. Or if the families would prefer to work with neighbors, the solution can also offer to match network members interested in co-op solutions.

These features are new to UrbanSitter, which has never before offered co-op matching and is making the new concierge service exclusive to Cleo Care.

“As working moms desperate for a solution to the crisis facing parents today, we were focused on developing a solution that didn’t just work for our members and enterprise clients, but also one that we’d use ourselves. After experimenting and trying everything from virtual care to scheduling shifts to looking for new caregivers ourselves, we realized the only solution that would work for families would require a new model of childcare designed for the unique issues COVID-19 has created,” said Cleo CEO Sarahjane Sacchetti.

Sacchetti, the former chief marketing officer of Collective Health, stepped in to lead Cleo after its original co-founder Shannon Spanhake was ousted following issues around company culture and a falsified resumé. Since then, Cleo has been expanding its business in the form of numerous partnerships, including those with Natalist, Milk Stork, Playfully, Dadi and others.

The solution will roll out in pilot testing with large U.S. employers to start, the company says. International employers will have access to its Cleo Kids coaching solution while Cleo looks for partnerships with care provider networks outside the U.S.

The employers will pay a combined monthly membership fee for access to Cleo Kids and UrbanSitter as well as one-time matching fees for co-op matching or care provider matching and placement, when used by a family. Cleo says it’s working with employers to explore models to cover some of the matching costs, which can be supported if an employer offers a dependent care FSA.

A sign-up form is here.

Image credits: Cleo