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Free program helps Airmen find local sitters

(U.S. Air Force graphics/Sylvia Saab)

(U.S. Air Force graphics/Sylvia Saab)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Airmen and their families now have a free option when it comes to choosing a caretaker online.

Sittercity helps connect people who need babysitters, nannies, pet sitters, tutors, housekeepers and adult caregivers with reputable and trusted service providers. Now, the Department of Defense has funded the membership cost so service members can take advantage of the program for free.

The original vision of Sittercity when it was founded in 2001 was to create a place on the internet where parents could go to find that perfect care provider for their family, said Melissa Anderson, the president of Sittercity's Corporate Division.

"We invented the concept of matchmaking for care providers," she said.

The program allows military parents to post jobs with the requirements of what they consider to be the perfect sitter. They can include specifications like sitters who have access to military installations or military-subsidized care providers.

Once the job is posted, sitters apply directly to that job. The parents receive targeted cover letters through email explaining the sitters' qualifications. Then, the parents can choose an applicant who best suits their needs. All communication goes directly through the site until parents feel comfortable enough to connect with a sitter personally.

"On average, each job post gets 11 applicants," said Anderson. "We connect a military family with a care provider every seven minutes."

Jennifer Sheree Righter, a Vandenberg spouse and Sittercity caretaker, has been advertising her service on the website for almost a year.

"Sittercity has a lot of parents looking for childcare, and they had a military section," said Righter. "That is what made me start using it."

As a parent, and former military member, Righter knows how important it is for military families to have this option available.

"I realized how hard and stressful it would have been for me and my husband both being security forces to find adequate childcare," said Righter. "Military families sacrifice a lot and need help when it comes to schedules and childcare."

While the site is free to military families, the care itself is not free.

"The parents have to pay for the care provided, and that is all negotiated through the parents and the provider. In the job posting, the parents will give a range of what they're comfortable paying, so the sitter will have an idea before applying," said Anderson.

Sittercity is accessible to military members around the world, so members who are moving from an overseas location to a stateside location can begin finding a sitter before they even arrive in country.

"We see lots of uses of Sittercity from families who (have a deployed member) or who have (moved) and they are in a location where they don't have family members to help them care for their children," said Anderson.

Not only does Sittercity help military families find sitters, especially in secluded areas, but it helps spouses find jobs as well.

"We are a proud member of the (Military Spouse Employment Program) and we recruit military spouses to work on our site," said Anderson. "We employ thousands of military spouses. We have military families on both sides of the equation."

For more information on how to get a free Sittercity membership, visit www.Sittercity.com/DOD