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Day Care Chain Bright Horizons Buys Sittercity As Parents Scramble For Child Care And Tutoring During Pandemic

By Lauren Zumbach Chicago Tribune

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) As Lauren Zumbach reports, "Sittercity" will be run separately by current CEO, Elizabeth Harz. The acquisition however, will allow Bright Horizons and Sittercity to give families more options when it comes to child care.

Chicago

With families scrambling to figure out child care options for kids attending school remotely this fall, day care company Bright Horizons announced it is purchasing Sittercity, an online platform that matches people with providers.

Bright Horizons said the partnership will help it fill the wide range of new child care needs families are facing as a growing list of workplaces and schools delay plans to return to offices and classrooms during the pandemic.

"With the child care strain families have been experiencing the last five months paired with the prospect of remote learning, this acquisition will allow us to expand our in-home offerings and virtual solutions that are increasingly critical to families," Bright Horizons CEO Stephen Kramer said in a news release Thursday.

The company has 1,076 child care centers worldwide, including 43 in Illinois. Bright Horizons also works with companies looking to give employees access to child care services.

Terms of the transaction with Sittercity were not disclosed.

Sittercity will remain based in Chicago, led by current CEO Elizabeth Harz.

The company, which was founded in 2001 and had been privately held, plans to grow its Chicago-based team but declined to share the number of people it employs or how many it plans to hire.

Though Sittercity will be run separately, Harz said the acquisition means Bright Horizons and Sittercity will be able to give families more options when it comes to child care.

"This combination allows us to help parents manage their child care needs how they want, when they want, where they want," Harz said.

The companies have been working together since 2013, when Sittercity raised $13 million from investors including Massachusetts-based Bright Horizons. The companies also signed a partnership agreement that let employers who are Bright Horizons customers give workers access to care through Sittercity as a benefit.

Many families are looking for in-home care during the pandemic, either to reduce kids' risk of coronavirus exposure or because parents are working from home.

Sittercity is seeing a "huge surge" as parents search for babysitters who can tutor as well as entertain, and even oversee a backyard school pod with children from multiple families, Harz said in an interview Wednesday.

"As diverse as the school realities are for the next year, that's how diverse the family plans are," Harz said.

Bright Horizons temporarily closed most of its child care centers during the COVID-19 outbreak this spring. Its second-quarter revenues plummeted 44 % year-over-year, the company said Wednesday.

At the end of July, about 390 of 710 Bright Horizons centers in the U.S. were open. The company said more than 85% of its centers should be operating by the end of September, but warned those plans could change depending on federal and state guidelines around reopening, and how quickly families return.

Services connecting families with in-home care, from nanny placement agencies to online child care search websites like Sittercity and Care.com, say the spike in demand when schools closed in the spring has continued, and with a new school year approaching, more parents are looking to hire someone who can help kids learning at home.

Sittercity had tutors on its platform before the pandemic, but has done more to promote sitters with an education background in recent weeks, knowing there would be "unprecedented demand," Harz said. The company also introduced a virtual tutoring option.

Care.com saw triple-digit percentage increases in the number of Chicago families seeking tutors from the beginning of June to the end of July. Nationwide, demand for people to supervise academic pods has spiked, said Carrie Cronkey, Care.com's chief marketing officer.

Agencies say they are seeing a similar jump in the number of people looking for jobs as nannies, sitters or tutors.

Some are teachers uncomfortable returning to a classroom or teacher's aides who found themselves out of a job when schools switched to remote learning. Others are college students with extra time to earn money while attending classes remotely or taking a gap year. One agency heard from a job-hunting theater worker whose fall production was canceled.

"This is a difficult time in the economy. ... We're maintaining our standards about who can engage in the platform, but we're seeing unprecedented supply too," Harz said. ___ Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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