Great childcare— so, a solution that you can afford, has availability, works with your schedule, and can provide loving and safe care for your child— can be hard to find! Most often than not, you will have to concede some trade-offs. Leslie Borrell explains the different childcare options out there, the reality behind economic subsidy programs, and how to communicate your non-negotiables to those caring for your child. She also shares with Adriana why it can be life-changing to practice broadening your community circles of support when your baby is little, so that you build a community care network that will grow with your child that you can then combine with whatever transactional forms of childcare you decide to pursue (or not!).
Powered by RedCircle
- Child Care Aware of America website
- See Your State’s Resources: Find local resources on child care, health and social services, financial assistance, support for children with disabilities, and more, ChildCare.Gov
- Why is daycare so expensive in America? CNBC
- You Need Child Care For Your Baby. Here’s How To Start Your Search, LAist
- The Carefully Cooperative website
- Show+Tell: Early Childhood Innovations with Promise website
- Upfront website
- NAEYC website
- Zero to Three website
- Family Business, Patagonia
- Child care benefits could help ease the worker crunch, an advocacy campaign says. New York Times
- No One is Coming To Save Us podcast
- Neighborhood Villages website
Related Birthful episodes:
- How to Bring More Joy into Your Parenting Experience
- Lessons in Decolonizing Parenting
- Building Your Post-Birth Village
- How You Can Balance the Mental Load
- Letting Go of “Mom Guilt”
- Effects of Sleep Deprivation
How to Set Up Your Childcare Options to Include Community Care
Adriana Lozada: Welcome to Birthful, Mighty Parent or Parent-To-Be. I’m Adriana Lozada, and today’s episode is the last one in our Get a Head Start on Your Postpartum Logistics series, and we’ve almost saved the most daunting for last, because today we’re going to explore how to go about setting up your child care options.
As you can imagine, this is an incredibly complex topic, because of all the variables that need to come together and that’s even without considering the emotional aspect of going through this process!
Nevertheless, we’re certain you are going to need some form of child care at some point, whether it’s an everyday situation, or whether you are a stay-at-home parent that needs a family member to watch your child one afternoon a week so you can more easily knock off items off your to-do or simply get some much needed time to yourself.
So I want you to approach this episode as a primer of sorts, to start familiarizing yourself with what the process can look like, and also know that for this particular episode, we’re focusing more on the community-based childcare piece of the puzzle, and we’re doing that for three reasons.
The first is that even if you are thinking of going with a more transactional child care option, like a child care center or even a nanny, that is not something that will be available to you 24/7, you will need a combination of options. So it’s super helpful to be more intentional about setting up your community-based options rather than scrambling at the last minute to see who can help you out.
The second reason is that the process of figuring out your more transactional options will be quite unique to you, depending on regulations where you live, your schedule, your child’s needs, what you can afford, and the quality of care that is accessible to you, and so it would be ridiculous of us to try to tackle all of that, especially since an amazing resource to help you figure out all those details already exists! I’m referring to ChildCareAware.org, and part of their power is that they work with a national network of more than 500 Child Care Resource and Referral agencies (also known as CCR&Rs).
CCR&Rs serve as resource hubs to help you find quality child care, and the services they provide will vary depending on where you live but usually include referrals to local child care providers, information on state licensing requirements, where to get help paying for child care, and information on services for children with special needs.
Heads up though, that the Child Care Aware website has so much info that it can feel a little daunting, so give yourself time to get acquainted with the site and also understand the different types of services available to you along with the related jargon, before rushing to set up interviews with child care centers. If you take the time to explore the website, you will find lots of helpful lists, downloads, and step-by-step suggestions on how to start your child care search and select a child care program. And, yes, they even have lists of questions that you can ask during your tours.
And then the third reason we are focusing more on community care options for this episode is that there are long-term, even lifelong, benefits to setting up care shares and creating nourishing community connections. If you heard our recent episode with Michelle Peterson, you heard there the importance of creating a village of support to help you during your immediate postpartum, but it’s not like you stop needing help once you go back to work. And again, you’re not meant to take care of your child alone.
I also get that building community can seem daunting, so that’s I wanted to speak specifically to my guest, Leslie Borrell, today, because she has not only had to figure out how setting up community care for her child as a single mom in NYC, she also created a powerful app to help simplify the process for all of us, and I’m all for helpful tools.
You’re listening to Birthful, here to inform your intuition.
Adriana: Welcome, Leslie! It is so lovely to have you here on the show. I’m looking forward to our conversation.
Leslie Borrell: Me too! Thanks so much for having me.
Adriana: Oh my gosh! And you are doing some amazing work to try to improve childcare options and just the care in general. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself, how you identify, and the work you’re doing?
Leslie: Sure. So my name is Leslie Borrell. I’m the founder of fixchildcare.com, Carefully as a platform for parents to connect with people they know and trust to create networks for exchanging childcare, organizing, playdates and planning events. My background— I think that was the other question you asked, sorry— my background is my father is Cuban, my mother is Jewish. That’s how I identify. She/her as well. Those are different types of identities, but those are mine.
Adriana: And what led you to create Carefully and your initiative called Fix Childcare? To try to… I mean, give us a bird’s eye view of the state of childcare in the U.S., which is (to put it mildly) dismal.
Leslie: Sure, for sure. So what we talk about in the B2B space, is, you know, 90% of U.S. workers don’t have access to employer-provided childcare.
So whether you’re a freelancer, a gig worker, or working non-standard hours, these are people that, either their employer doesn’t offer childcare benefits or they don’t qualify for childcare benefits. And offering solutions that are inclusive, we know is really important, but they also allow employees to connect with each other at a time when we’re feeling isolated and lonely and depressed and we’re sitting in our homes.
So Fix Childcare is our latest initiative to really surface the stories of the people that are on the ground doing the work, and helping to really drive those stories home and make the issue more well understood so we can help find the solutions to make care affordable, accessible, and inclusive.
And that’s really what Carefully is all about. We know that childcare is expensive, inaccessible, and stressful. And with our platform, we try to help people find other options so that they can connect with their community, that they’re not always having to spend money on childcare.
And I really came to this solution trying to solve my own problems as a single mom. I have been through a journey, as a single mom living and working in New York. And you know, when he was three going on four, I didn’t have a lot of friends that had kids in New York City and I was, you know, in-between jobs, so I didn’t have a sitter at the time ’cause I couldn’t afford it. And he was, you know, at school and I was trying to figure out what needed another job— and he’s very extroverted, so he always wants people around and somebody entertaining him. And as a single mom, I always need a break. And so, like, to me, playdates were the answer, but I didn’t have a network of parents. And so I started reaching out to people at the park, asking them, you know, to come over and have their kids have a playdate. And my idea was the kids would play and I would get a break. And I really realized at that point that actually the parents come over and you end up spending the time entertaining the parents., and for me, as an introvert, it’s not a break.
And so at that point, I really… I took a step back and I said there has to be a way for us to kind of remove that obligation guilt that parents feel to always be around and watch the kids and do that, whereas the kids are fine. And so that’s how Carefully was really born. I put my background in product and technology to work and I said, “Let me solve this problem for myself.”
And that’s how it kinda Carefully came to life. And as we sort of looked around and saw a lot of the solutions in the childcare space were still targeted towards people of means, people in the upper socioeconomic classes, I really wanted a solution that was beautiful and well designed and, thoughtful, but prioritized the needs of vulnerable communities, marginalized communities, but was still inclusive and anybody could use. And that’s really what I’ve been focused on with Carefully. And the most recent initiative, of course, is Fix Childcare, which is an outgrowth of that.
Adriana: So say I am currently pregnant, have a job, thinking after my baby is born I probably need to go back to work. And I know nothing about childcare, right? Like, it’s all new to me. So what are the options out there for me to consider?
Leslie: I mean… I think that there’s a few things to think about, right? And I would first start off and say “There’s no silver bullet,” right? It’s always gonna be a combination of options, and it depends on your situation.
You have your informal care (which is things like your friends and family that you rely on). Your unlicensed care, which could be home-based care providers. You have your licensed care (which is daycare). You have nannies. And a lot of times there’s different price points. For me, when my son was younger, we did a nanny share with another friend. And that worked out really well for us, ’cause it allowed him to be with another child and it allowed us to have one sitter between the two of us. I was also working long hours working in tech.
But really, especially when you’re… if you’re lucky enough to have paid leave, using that time to build your community. That’s the time when you can start to find other moms who are on leave too and start building your community on Carefully or in real life too.
And then, as the kids grow, you have a community where you can start sharing care. So that’s that informal care network, which is one part care, which is really critical. And if you start building those bonds from when the kids are babies— you and the parents can grow together. I know that that was something that I started. So I think that you have to really get out there.
And I think also when you’re looking at… when you’re looking for affordable care, which is what we think about too, there are a lot of subsidized care options too, but they’re harder to find. And that’s one of the things that we see a lot, when we’re doing our advocacy work, that not all of the subsidized care options are […] spaces are filled up because people just don’t know about them.
And so you actually have to do a lot of research and digging to find them. And this is part of the problem, you have to do a lot of work to find them. Then you have to do a lot of work to fill out all the paperwork and jump through the hoops. And that’s… It’s not a good situation.
But the reality is, if you don’t have the money to pay for formal childcare, that’s expensive. It can cost, you know, over a thousand dollars a month. And when that’s the average, of course, in places like New York or big cities, it’s gonna be much higher. Then you have to really do the research to find the affordable options. And then once you’ve done the research, you then have to do more work to do the paperwork to get into those programs. So it’s not easy. But you can find them because the spaces are there.
Adriana: And so in terms of these options for subsidized care, what are there…? Do you know? What did you find?
Leslie: It’s going vary state-to-state, city-to-city. And cities are trying, I think they’re trying to do the work, but they’re dealing with bureaucratic processes. And so fixchildcare.com is our website, and we do have a section with resources for parents called “Read, Watch, Listen.” If you go there, we have articles for new parents where you can find all of these tips and tricks for finding vouchers, finding subsidized care that we recommend.
So I would say “Go there.” I think also, wherever your local city site is, go there and really look for subsidized care. There’s usually resources at the city level, but you do have to do digging and also talk to people, you know, talk to your local community organizations. Go in and ask questions, talk to other parents. And a lot of this is word of mouth, that you can get in and do it— that’s where we see a lot of the knowledge being held, unfortunately.
Adriana: This is an overwhelming topic because there’s so many moving parts. So I think we’ve got the one part that we talked about in terms of options that you have— which you explained whether it’s paid, whether it’s formal, informal, whether it’s friends and family, nannies, you know, in your home, outside your home— and sort of trying to navigate what fits better for you, and then that can be a combination of things. And I hear a lot with my doula clients, like “The baby’s gonna spend three days a week with their grandmother,” and then they’re at childcare for two days a week. And so, and so it is a mix of that. Then trying to figure out how to pay for it. And you were saying that on average it’s a thousand dollars per month for childcare outside the home, as the average. And depending on what city you are, I’ve heard like a lot more, and also a lot less.
Adriana: Yeah, and then try to figure out if there are vouchers or subsidies or programs out there that can make this easier for you.
And then there’s the emotional piece of it, of… People worry, like, “I found this childcare. This is what I can afford.” Or “This is the combination of friends and family that I connected with.” And “How can I navigate the part of thinking, ‘Is my child gonna be safe? Are they gonna be well taken care of? Are their unique needs going to be met?'” And so, I think, let’s go down that rabbit hole.
Leslie: I think that family- or home-based care— this is where people have set up childcare in their home, and it’s set up as a childcare center— and a lot of families find that to be much more aligned with their needs. And they prefer that, especially people that are from underrepresented groups, because… I’m a big proponent of family-based care. It’s usually small; they’re small centers. They can be both licensed and unlicensed. It really varies state-by-state, and that doesn’t necessarily impact the quality of care. I think that that’s oftentimes a misrepresentation.
They can be license-exempt. Sometimes it’s informal, meaning they don’t need to be licensed based on the regulations in that state. But a lot of times these childcare providers are very dedicated to the community. They’re from the community. They understand the community. They understand their needs. They care so much about the community and they’re oftentimes much less expensive. They really just want to help the community and that’s why I have a special place in my heart for these people. I’ve met a lot of these family-based care providers that are really dedicating their lives to surviving, and barely surviving and making ends meet, just to help the families and their community get to work. So I give them a big shout out. The formal childcare centers are, oftentimes, you know, much fancier, I would say, but that doesn’t necessarily indicate that they’re a higher quality, so to speak. And it really just depends on your preference, right? What you think is going to be a better fit for you and your values. And then a nanny can oftentimes be more flexible because they’re gonna work with your particular schedule. And I would also say family-based centers often have more flexibility as well.
That’s one of the biggest challenges in childcare, is a lot of these childcare centers— both family-based and formal daycare centers— have a working schedule of 9-to-5, and we know that a lot of people don’t work in a normal 9-to-5 schedule. Now, family-based childcare centers that are in-home usually are more flexible and will have different hours. So that’s another consideration to make, but it’s really about understanding what are the things that are important to you and prioritizing those things.
And sometimes, you know, you’re gonna— I’ve heard from people— that you really end up kinda crossing off a lot of things, because it’s gonna come down to who has availability. And that’s the breaks in the market that we’re in, unfortunately. So you really have to prioritize what’s really, really important to you, and be willing to kind of make those tradeoffs. And kind of going into that situation, knowing what you’re willing to trade off, I would say.
Adriana: What are some of the big things that people should be looking out for when trying to find care in terms of that? Like, what questions should they ask or, what minimum standards should their daycare have, if you will. In order for them to… remember, like, I’m somebody who knows nothing about this, right? And I’m stepping into this brave new world.
Leslie: I would say everybody has to decide for themselves what’s important to them. I’ll just give you an example.
I was actually on a Slack group and there was a new mother that was saying just that she’s pregnant— not even had her baby!— and was getting overwhelmed by everything that people were telling her to read. And as a new mom, I really didn’t read anything. That’s my parenting style!
So trying to tell people, like, “These are the hundred questions you need to go and ask everybody to make sure you make the exact right choice,” I find that to be really stressful. Like, “You’re gonna be fine. Your instincts are great. Trust your values.” And figure that out and ask people based on those things. Because if you get caught up in trying to make the perfect choice— and, again, this is my opinion— you’re gonna stress yourself out. And if you feel like something’s not right, then go with your instincts and make another choice. Definitely, if you sense that it’s not right, then make the right decision for your family. I try not to overthink things, so I can’t tell you that there’s a ton of things to think about other than, like, you want somebody that’s gonna really care about your child and feel warm and loving. That, to me, is the most important thing for me personally, you know— especially as a baby.
Adriana: And talking about things that can stress you out, it can be super stressful when you figure it out, your daycare situation. You thought it was one way and then they’re not doing the things that they said they were gonna do. Or people are taking care of your child in ways that you really do not want them to be taken care of in that way, and that can be extremely stressful.
What are some ways to navigate that communication with the center you’re at or with your family members too, right? This is a very common and stressful conversation. If, say, your mother-in-law’s taking care of your baby or your father-in-law’s taking care of your baby. How do you navigate those?
Leslie: Well, I do. I mean, that is where […] having expectations and understanding what’s important to you. So if there are things that are important, I mean, with a baby it’s a little bit harder, but I’ll use an example with when we talk about setting up playdates or childcare exchanges, so, like, screen time is a big thing and we tell people, you know, “It’s really important to be clear about what are your expectations around screen time on a playdate.” You know, “Be clear with people about what your expectations are.” So if there’s things that are important to you when you’re going in, like, “I wanna make sure that they’re eating healthy, that they’re having naps, that they’re getting playtime,” you know, they’re like, all of the things that you feel like are like, you know, table stakes.
I would say make sure that you say them, that you verbalize them, and then when they’re not happening that you verbalize, “Hey, why didn’t these things happen?” And then if that happens again— I mean, I think, maybe, you know, I would say there’s a, with a baby, there’s maybe a one strike rule, not a three strike rule, because the baby can’t take care of themselves— but, you know, you need to set the expectations from the beginning about the things that you think are really important and make sure that y’all are on the same page about those things.
And then if it doesn’t happen, make sure that you communicate, so there’s some conversation about what happened— you know, maybe there was a miscommunication or you didn’t understand the situation so that there’s no, like, overreaction or miscommunications about things, which we can all do as new parents and parents that care about our kids. But if it happens again, I would probably be the kind of person to be a one-strike person with a new baby, because the baby can’t speak out for themselves.
Adriana: More specifically to community-based childcare. What are some of the best practices in trying to set that up?
Leslie: Sure. So, with community-based childcare, is what Carefully is about and it’s about connecting with people that you know and trust in building this network so you can exchange care. We really talk about finding people that you do know so that you can build this network. And a lot of times people do have a network of two or three people, but with something like Carefully, we really think about building a bigger network so you’re not always relying on one or two people and you’re not just reaching out when you’re desperate, but that you’re really building out a habit of always asking each other to help so that as you grow up, the kids are just used to going between each other’s house and it becomes more of a natural habit as it was many years ago.
Kids just were always at somebody’s house and there was a kind transition between things. And to me, the best practice, it’s not necessarily that it has to be your best friend, but it has to be somebody that shares your values. It has to be somebody that maybe has a schedule that matches with yours so that it’s a good exchange, right? So it could be you work during the days and they work during the nights. That could be a great match. It doesn’t have to be somebody that you wanna be going out with, ’cause if you’re all are going out, then there’s nobody to watch the kids, right? So it could just be a neighbor that has a good schedule that matches with you and you all respect each other, right? It doesn’t have to be best friends.
And again, the same thing within the app we allow people to really talk about like “What are the things in your household that are important?” like, you know, “We’re vaccinated.” “We have no pets in the house. This might be important for people that have allergies.” Like, “We have no guns in the house.” You know, be clear about that. In some states, a lot of people do have guns in the house, which is important, if you do have a gun, “How is it stored?” You know, what are the different things like that that are important to you? Screen time is another thing to talk about.
Also, thinking about, try to talk about things in a way that is not judgmental. This is not a time for judgment. Like, if somebody has a gun in their house, like, whatever you think about it, like, don’t be judgmental. You can opt outta that exchange if that’s not something you wanna do. But don’t try to engage in any kinda judgment at this point.
This is all about trying to find the people that you’re gonna match with and you want people to be honest and open. And so I… that’s what I try to encourage is people kinda engaging in as much transparency as you can, so you can find people that are the right match for you. And if you’re transparent, that’s gonna encourage other people too.
And the other thing that’s really great is it’s really important for you to reach out and ask for help because when you ask for help, that teaches other people to ask for help. And so there needs to be somebody that initiates it because that will show that other people can… Sometimes people are… The first person to ask is a little bit hard.
And so having a leader that’s there to push people in the group to kind of “Let’s do this!” Or an organizer is really helpful when you have a group. Either initiating some group activities to get the group started is a really great first practice, like, where everybody’s together. You’re not gonna just get a group together and then start dropping the kids off. You’re gonna start by getting everybody together. Let the kids play together, let the parents mingle. You might meet in the park first. Then, after you meet in the park, you might meet together at somebody’s house. Then once you meet at their house, then you might say, “Okay, let’s have a short playdate,” that, you know, it’s about building trust. And through those activities you build trust.
Adriana: And what I think is really interesting about this approach— as opposed to paid service or a service where you just go and drop your kid off at a home care or a daycare— that this is a two-way street. This is not just, “I dropped my kid off, and I pay you and I don’t provide service for your kid.” Here you can’t just ask for help. You also have to give some help.
Leslie: Yeah. And I love the phrase of “It’s like solidarity, not charity.” So we say “You ask for help when you need it, and you give help when you can.” And I think that that’s really important. I think it’s not an obligation. It’s like, “Oh, you watch my kid this time, I’ll watch your kid next time for sure.” And that’s why we actually use a system within Carefully. It’s called Karma Care hours. And so you earn, or you gain Karma Care hours when you watch somebody else’s kids. And then you can use that Karma Care anywhere in the system, with anybody else. So it doesn’t have to be like a one-on-one and you know that people are kinda staying in balance that way.
Because I do think sometimes there’s this sense of, “Oh, if somebody came over to my house, then I have this obligation to invite them back over.” And life doesn’t always work out that way. And so trying to really remove, again, remove that sense of obligation and guilt and realize that everybody’s in here trying to make things work and helping each other out. And so you can just breathe and be relaxed and know that, when you can, you’re gonna help and everybody’s there for you. And so that’s like there’s no pressure. In the same way that you will help when you can and we believe you. We know it. It’s ok.
Adriana: And I love that so much because it also lets you participate at your comfort level and your skill level. Maybe I’m not great at setting up activities, but I’m really great at driving kids from one place to another. So then those are the things that I take on. So what are some of the options that are in the app? ‘Cause I love the ability to have something that organizes this!
Leslie: There’s definitely, definitely different ways that you can organize the care. And also the other thing is some people aren’t comfortable having people into their home for different reasons, right? So it doesn’t have to be at your house. You can invite people to the park. You can organize a group event. So say you have a group of five or six people and you just wanna, you know, invite everybody to the park for a picnic one day. Then you actually earn Karma Care hours for every kid that you’re hosting, because we know it’s more work for every kid that you’re taking care of. So you actually earn more Karma for each kid that you’re taking care of. It’s not just for the total hours.
So you can do that. You can organize group events. You can request care, obviously. You can also, as you mentioned, you can post a request. So say you’re running late to pick up the kids from school, you post a request in the group and you say, “Hey, can anybody help me? I’m gonna be an hour late, pick up the kids and I’ll come grab them when I get home from work.” So that’s great. And the playgroup… I always talk about the organizing a playgroup as a great way to manage our after school care gap, which is like the 2:30 to 5:30 gap when we’re still working and the kids are out of school, which is when you get together with, you know, five families and you can kind of rotate through the week. So each day, one family picks up the kids from school, takes them to the park, or takes them to the house and watches the kids for a few hours. And so that way all the families aren’t trying to do that after school juggle of watching the kids, being on your phone, being at the park.
And everybody knows this— I’ve done it too— but when you have just one day a week where you’re watching the kids— and I did this with my son so I know how powerful it is— you take the kids, you take them to the park, you’re actually playing with them, you’re engaging with them, you’re enjoying your time with them. And they have a group of kids to play with. And then the rest of the week you have those three hours to get stuff done, which is amazing. And then come home and they’re so excited, ’cause they had playdates the whole week, which is what most kids want!
Adriana: Right, anyway, right to somebody else, ’cause “I’m bored.” What are other examples? Yeah. How easy is the app to navigate for, like, say, your mom or grandmas to figure this out?
Leslie: So we have worked very hard to make it easy to use. When you create a group, in the way that you invite people to the group, they just have to click a link. They can download the app and they get automatically added to that group and they’re kind of guided through a three-step onboarding flow, and I think it’s super easy. Also, you know, one other thing to mention, it is a platform that has… We’ve already translated it to Spanish. So if you’re Spanish-speaking, you can use it in your native language as well.
Adriana: And Carefully the app helps people better organize this, but, truthfully, people can do this without the app, right? Like, they can figure out how to set up their networks, and groups using other technologies that they’re already familiar with.
Leslie: Yeah. I mean… So I always… Well, I’ll even take a step further, I’ll say like… What I always say is “Community-based care is nothing new.” It’s tried and true. It’s a thing that people have been doing for generations, right? People rely on their community to help them with childcare, whether it’s their grandmother, their neighbor, whatever.
So like the idea of setting up a care circle, a babysitting co-op, childcare, co-op, all of those concepts are things that you don’t need technology for. I think the challenge today is that we’ve lost our community. We’ve also become so focused on individualism and independence that we’ve forgotten how to ask for help.
And so… and also, I think oftentimes people are really busy, and having two or three people in our network that we rely on is not enough. And so our hope and our goal with Carefully is to help people reconnect (or connect) with their community, and then expand their connection to create this reliable and robust network.
Yes, they can do it with other tools, but with Carefully it’s really focused on all of these goals of building this reliable, robust, resilient safety net that helps you connect. And so there’s a lot more thought about, like, the purpose— but, sure, just do it! I mean, anything that’s gonna help you survive, I’m all for doing it.
Adriana: And it’s so funny that we’re trying to figure out how to get back to those structures that we already did innately. And I think having things like the karmic care hours is really helpful in those, you know, holding our hands towards this “getting us to the place that we’re no longer familiar with,” right?
Like, this asking for help, because the guilt comes in: “I’m not providing enough care.” “I’m so busy,” but then I can’t, you know, pick up the kids. And so I think that’s brilliant. What are other examples of ways to connect and engage with a community that you see working in the app?
Leslie: So I mean, honestly, what’s what works the best is when there’s somebody that’s coming in from the community and starting their group. So they’re kind of building that up. So, when I first, you know, started the app, it was really giving a platform for people to connect with people they know and trust in the community.
So, as a working mom, I didn’t know a lot of people at school, but my son (social butterfly!) knew everybody in the school and wanted to have playdates with all of them. So I envisioned, you know, a way for us to connect with other parents in the school that he knew and, you know, could have a lot of playdates.
What we see as, and which has gotten worse since COVID is that people just don’t have that community, right? And so people are really, we know, isolated, lonely, lacking a community And so we did see a lot of people coming onto Carefully looking for that community. And so we built ways within Carefully; we call them “hubs.” And those are public spaces that you can go into where you can connect with other people. I do think that that’s a more challenging way to meet families, right, because you have to really work at building trust. If you are meeting them in the app for the first time, like you’re gonna have to really put work in to connect with them, to build the bond, to meet them first, check them out, to understand who they are before you’re gonna really know it.
But just like with any kind of online experience, like, you’re gonna find people that you connect with, still we’ll get there with it, but it’s still a harder way to do it.
But we see it’s been great over the summer. We’ve seen people starting co-ops for the summer where they’re helping each other out. It’s been great to see everybody starting!
Adriana: What are some of the things that people should pay more attention to, or what are the not-so-successful interactions that you’ve had to deal with?
Leslie: So I will say right now we don’t yet have, like, any kind of background checks or ID verification. So, like I said, you really have to kind of use your own vetting process, but I think for us it’s very organic and that’s why we focus on, just, like, you meet your parents from school, you use your own vetting.
We are working on adding that in. I have mixed feelings about it, but we’ve also gotten a lot of feedback from different communities that that’s something that’s important to them, and I think that’ll also, like, help improve sort of the trust and safety within the platform. But also we have kept the app very organic. So the people that are coming here are generally people that are coming here that are parents and I kind of see how people are engaging and it’s pretty hard to come onto the app because the communities, you’re inviting people into your groups and things like that, it— other than the public hubs that I was talking about— it’s kind of hard to be a bad actor in the app and do a lot, which I like. Other than like the public hubs, which I monitor and try to keep a handle on.
Adriana: Yeah, and from what I’m hearing is that the app really shines in trying to simplify this process for communities that are already kind of connecting, and who have the similar needs. And this is just a place to sort of organize the structure for how this happens and have that easy connection just for this purpose. How does the app organize those groups?
Leslie: So as a member of Carefully you can organize groups basically how you want to. So you can come onto the app, you can create as many groups as you want, really. And then you… So you might have a group for school, a group for your soccer, your kid’s soccer team, a group for your other kid’s volleyball team, say, and then each of those groups, everybody in those groups kind of combines to create your trusted network. And so you can create events in the groups or you can search across the groups to organize the care. And so those are the two kinds of dynamics that work. But the groups are sort of the core experience where you can organize events, and there’s also chat-based thing where you can post pictures and just have general discussions in the group. It’s really like a social network, generally-speaking. But it’s very focused on the family and also it’s not about constant engagement, like, we’re not sending you notifications.
It’s about really letting you have a space for you and your group and for you to organize the care. So we integrate with your calendar. We let you set your availability so we know when you want to be available. So when you show up on the search or when you don’t, things like that that are really focused on you being in control of your network— they’re focused on parents who are busy, things like that to help the family, and not things that are focused on distracting you or keeping you constantly engaged I would say.
Adriana: Is there anything else that would be really helpful for listeners to know as they’re again pregnant and trying to think ahead for how to coordinate their childcare?
Leslie: I think that Carefully is a great place for them to start organizing it because once they start on there with their, you know, bring their group onto Carefully, it can grow with them, right?
I think what we’re doing is changing how people think about childcare, right? People are so used to thinking about childcare as transactional. And we’re like, “No, childcare is about community,” right? And it’s hard for people to kind of get over that sometimes. Not every, […] a lot of people are like, “Oh, that makes a lot of sense.” But some people are like, “Wait, where are the sitters?” And I’m like, “No! We’re working together to support each other.” But it makes sense when we think about where the world is, when we hear the Surgeon General talking about the epidemic of loneliness and isolation. And we hear all of the issues going on. It’s ’cause we’re… everything is transactional in the world. Social media is not even about connection. It’s, you know, we have to get back to our roots in order to move forward, right?
Adriana: As you’re talking about childcare, my mind is doing so much mirroring into the postpartum space and family leave and unpaid family leave, and the fact that in terms of obstetric care, there are immense amounts of perinatal care deserts throughout the U.S. that could be fixed through something more community and out-of-hospital-based, like, midwifery or freestanding birth centers. So, and then you have the food deserts, food accessibility deserts, and it’s just we have so much lacking within this country that has so much because it all comes down to this disconnection of communities and change into a transactional way of life.
Leslie: Yeah, exactly. And there, I think, there’s that podcast, like No One Is Coming to Save Us, right? I mean, this is my thing, like, “Yes, we should have subsidies from the government,” but even if the government were more functional than it is today, they still can’t provide enough to fix this problem.
Yes, it’s an economic issue. There’s a problem with how much childcare providers need to make and should make, and how much we as families can afford to pay them. So there’s, like, a need for the government to come in and kind of make up that difference. I totally am on board with that, but I also don’t think that they will ever be able to do enough to make it work, right? That’s when the communities need to come together and help each other out.
I always like to refer to this book when we talk about some of this stuff, The Care Manifesto, I dunno if you’ve read this by the Care Collective. It talks about how so many of our issues in society are when we talk about getting to the root cause, it really is about the lack of care in our society, the lack of care for each other, the lack of care for our environment, the lack of care for, you know, our relatives for everything, right?
And so it’s not about fixing the symptoms, which is what subsidies and different things like that do, but community is what does that. Connecting with your community, caring about your community, caring about people, caring about your environment. That’s, like, the root cause, you know what I mean? And so if we don’t start doing that, we’re never gonna actually fix the problems. And yes, it’s harder than just paying somebody money to do something and being transactional, but it also feels so much better once you do it.
Adriana: Well, and it brings back the humanity of it. Like, “I can see you in your full reality of good days, bad days, with super skills and also tired and with bouts of anxiety,” and you know, that full humanity that you can only get when you’re actually establishing connections rather than just dropping somebody off and saying “Hey! Good-bye!”
Leslie: Yeah, it’s holistic. It’s holistic, right? Because you, you start to trust that person and then maybe you open up to them about something that’s upsetting you or stressing you out, and then it starts to get into your, like mental health, which is part of the issue. So who knows where that can lead. Which isn’t the same when you’re just like, oh, dropping somebody off at daycare, picking them up. Not that that’s not important, but it’s different, right? It’s a different side of things.
Adriana: Totally agreed. A hundred percent. I can also see how this is good, not just for companies and people building more connections with the people in their company, but also for freelancers. And, like, as you were talking, I was saying, “Oh, doulas!” Doulas are always trying to figure out how to find childcare at the weirdest hours and last minute. And so this is a perfect way to help doulas also connect in terms of that. And I’m sure, like, doulas is just, ’cause that’s close to home, but—
Leslie: No. Yeah, I never even, I really never even thought about that. You should totally create a doula care circle within your community.
Adriana: I’m gonna get on that!
Adriana: Leslie, thank you so very much for being on the show today and all the work you’re doing and sharing your information on how to build community childcare, which, yeah— let’s get back to the roots.
Leslie: Thank you so much. This has been wonderful. I really enjoyed it!
That was Leslie Borrell, who is a mother and the creator of the Carefully app, and the website fixchildcare.com. Leslie is also one of 50 founders selected into the Google for Startups Latino Founders fund, which gives her support and funding to focus on extending Carefully’s platform beyond consumers to support large communities, institutions, and employers with an inclusive and low-cost option for supporting all parents and caregivers.
You can find Leslie on Instagram @carefullyapp
And you can connect with us @birthfulpodcast on Instagram.
In fact, if you are not driving, we love it when you take a screenshot of this episode right now and then post it to your stories sharing your biggest takeaway from the episode. Tell us, tell us what you loved the most about it. Make sure to tag @birthfulpodcast so we can see it and amplify it.
Also, make sure you go to birthful.com to find the in-depth show notes for this episode, where we’ve included a long list of resources and links. There, you can also find the transcript for the episode, as well as learn more about my birth and postpartum preparation classes and download your free postpartum preparation plan.
Also, if you find this podcast to be an invaluable resource for you, then the best way to support us is by taking any one of my classes, doing one of my doula workshops, or trying out some of the wonderful products made by our sponsors. Truly, we couldn’t continue doing this without your help.
Birthful is created and produced by me, Adriana Lozada, with production assistance from Aysia Platte.
Thank you so very much for listening to and sharing Birthful and be sure to follow us on Goodpods, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, and everywhere you listen.
Come back for more ways to inform your intuition.
Lozada, Adriana, host. “How to Set Up Your Childcare Options to Include Community Care.” Birthful, Birthful. July 19, 2023. Birthful.com.
Sign up and get a FREE copy of my
About Leslie Borrell
Through her 20 years as a technology and product leader for industry-leading companies including Etsy, Travelocity, and ThoughtWorks, Leslie has demonstrated a unique talent for building diverse, strong teams capable of solving complex problems with simple solutions and delivering above expectations. She combines her deep understanding of agile values, engineering ethos, and practices that promote early delivery with her core values of empowerment and accountability to grow inspired teams.
Since shifting her focus to Carefully in 2020, Leslie has shown her flexibility and adaptability as she pivoted to a new role and industry. First came the FamTech Collaborative in 2020, where Leslie was invited as one of the early members and had the opportunity to build a robust network and nuanced understanding of the challenges and opportunities in the childcare space by interacting with advocates, founders, and experienced leaders. In 2021, Carefully was one of 7 companies accepted into the start.coop accelerator for cooperatively owned businesses. In March of 2022, Leslie joined the inaugural cohort for the City Fellowship, a public-private partnership between the NYC Economic Development Corporation and Company Ventures supporting impact-focused startups working to make NYC better.
Most recently, Leslie was selected as one of 50 founders into the Google for Startups Latino Founders fund, which gives her support and funding to focus on extending Carefully’s platform beyond consumers to support large communities, institutions, and employers with an inclusive and low-cost option for supporting all parents and caregivers. Leslie has always worked at the forefront of the technology industry, looking for the newest areas where she can adapt her experience, tackle new challenges, and expand her thinking. Carefully is well aligned with that ongoing journey as she works to make the world better through mutualism, community, and care.
Get Your FREE Postpartum Plan!
Sign up to get access to my NEW Postpartum Prep. Plan to help you prepare for life with a newborn! You'll also get updates from me from time to time.