Military families will no longer be able to use the babysitter website Sittercity after the Defense Department opted to discontinue their subsidized program with that service.
The DoD-funded free program ends July 31, Sittercity officials said. Military members who have signed up on the site before that date will be given an additional free month of service, they said.
Since 2010 military families have had free access to the site, which connects service providers with families who need childcare, pet sitters, house keepers or other kinds of care taking assistance. Users could log-on to the service, which costs non-military users $35 per month, $70 for three months or $140 for a year, and connect instantly with potential sitters. (Posting limited jobs and reading messages from potential caregivers is generally free for all users, but actually contacting them requires a paying membership or a free on through the DoD).
DoD and Sittercity officials sited a lower deployment op-tempo as the reason for ending the contract, which was worth $206,000 in 2014, according to a DoD spokesman. Overall the DoD has spent $1.65 million on the program since it started in 2010.
"The Defense Department contracted with Sittercity when the operational tempo was very high,” said Rosemary Freitas Williams, deputy assistant secretary of defense for military community and family policy, in a statement March 27. “The program offered additional in-home care solutions and support to military families impacted by increased deployments and family separations. Over the past 18 months, with the reduction in combat deployments, that need is not as great.”
Over 230,000 free monthly memberships have been provided to military families since 2010, according to a DoD spokesman. Overall Sittercity has four million sitters in their network and millions of subscribers, a Sittercity spokesman said.
Sittercity officials are still planning to offer military families a discount on their membership, although they will likely not extend the free program. They are currently planning to offer a 25 percent off discount on month month memberships, 50 percent off discount on three month membership and 25 percent off discount on annual memberships. Additionally, USAA members can access a discount to Care.com, a similar service.
(As a matter of full disclosure: Sittercity in the past sponsored Military.com SpouseBuzz events. That partnership is not ongoing.)
Photo Sara E. Martin/U.S. Army