Life abroad as a parent can be tough, and there are moments when you just want someone to take the pain away...now. It can be especially difficult when those moments sneak up on you, and you don’t have nearby friends or family who can keep an eye on the youngsters. While you take care of business or recover from an illness or recent childbirth, wouldn't it be nice to have a helping hand? Sure, there are daycare programs and preschools; but those options aren't always convenient or suitable, often requiring advance registration procedures. Luckily with some relatively recent developments, parents in Japan can choose from a number of babysitter options to help alleviate the stress of finding someone trustworthy to take care of the kiddies in those busy times.
All Japan Childcare Services Association (ACSA)
One of the worries of leaving your child in the care of others is knowing that they will be safe and well-looked after, underscoring the importance of opting for an experienced and qualified babysitter (as opposed to the neighborhood high school girl). The All Japan Childcare Services Association (ACSA) is a nationally-recognized association which provides accreditation, training, and membership for babysitters and babysitter companies to provide parents with professional childcare support. While the ACSA doesn't provide direct childcare support, their website is a great springboard for parents looking for information on finding the right babysitter and the benefits of having a professional babysitter. Streamlining the research process by listing companies with ACSA membership, parents can compare and find local babysitter companies that cater to their specific needs.
ACSA-Accredited Babysitter Companies: http://www.acsa.jp/htm/joining/list.htm#area01
Honey Clover is an ACSA-accredited babysitter company offering five different service types to cater to a number of needs and preferences. Honey Clover offers services similar to what many other babysitting companies offer, but there are myriad things that make Honey Clover stand out. One is that Honey Clover cherishes clear and steady communication between parent/s and babysitter. The babysitters will notify you when they have picked up or dropped off your child at the daycare center or school so that you can be reassured of their whereabouts, as well as keep you updated on your child’s condition if they are sick.
Another impressive service that Honey Clover provides is gaikokujin (foreigner) babysitters. If you want your child to have the opportunity to learn another language and about different cultures, Honey Clover offers babysitters from various countries who will interact with your child in their native language--such as English, Chinese, French, and Spanish.
If you’re looking for some extra help, Honey Clover has that covered too with their babysitter plus housework service. For an additional fee the babysitter will take care of your cleaning, cooking, and laundry while they keep an eye on your kids. With flexible options for organized regular visits, one-off bookings/short-notice bookings, and even overnight babysitting, you know you’re covered.
NOTE: As with most babysitter companies that offer childcare for sick children, they will not accept some children depending on the illness and severity of their condition.
Smart Sitter operates mainly around Tokyo and surrounding prefectures in the Kanto-area. Not only do they offer some of the more basic babysitting services that most companies offer, including pick-up/drop-off services, at-home babysitting service, and newborn support services; they have a number of babysitters with specific skills (e.g. music, sports) for those parents who would like their children to learn an extra skill or two.
When visiting the Smart Sitter website, parents can view the babysitters’ profiles and even reviews from other parents so that they can get a feel for the babysitter’s personalities, skills, training, etc. What’s more is that Smart Sitter isn't just about taking care of your child while you’re busy. These professional babysitters can offer moral support and advice for parents to ease some of the anxieties that come with being a parent.
With Smart Sitter also featuring a convenient online booking service, you can easily book a babysitter interview via PC or even through their mobile app for when you’re on the go.
Japan Babysitter Service
The Japan Babysitter Service, established in 1972, is Japan’s first babysitting company. ACSA-accredited and supporting parents for over 40 years, Japan Babysitter Service offers some great services. In addition to providing services that cater to most households, the Japan Babysitter Services also includes a service which specifically accommodates children with disabilities, with specialized babysitters who are trained and/or have experience as disability childcare workers.
The Japan Babysitter Service also offers a unique service for children over eight years old with parents who have a busy work schedule that compromises their time to spend with their child. While the parents are busy, children learn important domestic skills--a noble and venerable endeavor. The aim of this service is to not only equip children with skills such as cooking, food preparation, and household chores; but to also encourage them through domestic work to be considerate and mindful towards others, their belongings, and their environment.
Michel Club is especially great for parents with sick children. While many babysitter companies only offer at-home care for sick children with mild illnesses, Michel Club offers some flexibility with their option for in-hospital care. Primarily, the purpose of the in-hospital care option is to provide support and care for your child in your stead, and with the educational course option (which includes tutoring, art, English, and more) also available, your child’s mind can be stimulated while they continue their recovery.
NOTE: The in-hospital care service and the addition of the educational course will require the hospital/doctor’s permission.
Family Support Centers
Alternatively, parents in Japan can now hire babysitters through regional Family Support Centers, a community-based program run by city offices. Designed for both parents and community members who are looking to contribute locally, they are available in most towns and areas across Japan.
Once registered, the program will act as a mediator, which then finds and matches parents with the babysitter. Although the program does not require registered babysitters to be certified, all babysitters available through the program receive training before becoming available to the community, and some communities also require babysitters to have some sort of experience in childcare--e.g. as parents, childcare workers, nurses, etc.
As each Family Support Center in a given area differs slightly in their policies and services, it’s a good idea to visit the website for the program in your area; however, the Japan Association of the Advancement of Working Women (JAAWW) website also provides general information on the program and a search engine which allows you to easily look up the areas in which the Family Support Centers are available in each prefecture.
While the services that the program provides are limited and less flexible compared to babysitter companies, if you only require basic babysitter service and are looking to get involved at the community level, your local Family Support Center is a good option to look into.
Tokyo Chuo City Family Support Center: http://www.shakyo-chuo-city.jp/jigyo/child/family_s.html
JAAWW search engine: http://www.jaaww.or.jp/research/
JAAWW Family Support Center information: http://www.jaaww.or.jp/service/family_support/