Pinch-hitting for parents

A dropoff babysitting service offers busy parents a safe place to leave the kids for a few hours.

By TIFFANI SHERMAN, Times Correspondent
Published October 28, 2007

PALM HARBOR - Having kids is a huge responsibility, but sometimes parents just want to leave some of that responsibility to someone else. That's where Kidz Kare dropoff babysitting service comes in.

"You can drop them off and go do whatever you have to do," said Kidz Kare co-owner Janice Andrews, 44. "We're here for the things like you need to go to the spa, you need to go shopping, you need to go to a wedding or you have an emergency."

The business at 3720 Tampa Road brings a new concept to the area, one the mother of three said she wishes were around before.

"We were having trouble finding a reliable babysitting service," Andrews said. "A lot of people find themselves in a bind."

Children age 2 and older are accepted at Kidz Kare, and they don't need to be toilet-trained. Prices begin at $10 per hour and go up depending on the number of siblings. There is a one-hour minimum. Hours are 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Reservations are not required, but are appreciated.

"The idea came up and we thought it would be great," said co-owner Maribel Evins, 28, mother of a 61/2-year-old daughter. The two business partners met at Countryside Country Club where Evins worked in the playroom and Andrews was a member. Evins and her friends took turns caring for each other's kids, but didn't have a place to go when the couples wanted to go out together. That's when Evins and Andrews came up with the idea for a dropoff babysitting service.

"It took us about two years to make our dreams come true," Evins said.

But don't call the place a day care.

"The difference between us and a day care is we don't have a set curriculum," Andrews said. "We don't teach."

Still, there are standards. Everyone who works at Kidz Kare is at least 21 and is trained in CPR and first aid. The business is licensed to care for up to 36 children at a time, though it can have no more than 11 2- to 4-year-olds at a time.

Before parents can leave their children, Kidz Kare requires registration information, an annual fee, emergency contact numbers, and immunization and student health examination records for children younger than 5.

"I never left my kids with a babysitter before this," said Andrea Nagy, 32, mother of 2-year-old twin boys, Balazs and Bemce. "The people are really careful and nice. I'm confident if I have to leave my boys there."

Nagy has used Kidz Kare twice, both times for doctor's appointments.

"Can you imagine two boys in a doctor's office? I could not really concentrate on what the doctor was saying," she said. "I was praying to have a place like this."

"I plan to keep them busy," said Lisa Chowdhury of Oldsmar. She has taken her two girls, ages 5 and 10, to Kidz Kare several times.

"I was able to get my chores done, my house cleaned, and a meal prepared without interruption," she said.

It's also a way to spend some quality time with one child. One evening, Chowdhury dropped her younger daughter, Catherine, off at Kidz Kare for some alone time with her older child, Caroline.

"We spent an evening shopping and having dinner together," Chowdhury said.

But don't worry: Catherine had a great time playing with all the brand-new toys and participating in the activities at Kidz Kare. So much so, she asks to go back.

"If I tell them, 'I have to do this today,' they tell me, 'I want to go to Kidz Kare.' "

If you go

Kidz Kare

The dropoff babysitting service is at 3720 Tampa Road, Palm Harbor, next to La Mirage Spa & Salon. For information, call (727) 786-3300 or visit www.kidzkarebabysitting.com.