June Care

Gretchen Salyer, shown with her daughters, is the founder of the June Care Company, which connects parents with child care providers.

In the wake of a national child care shortage, Los Altos resident Gretchen Salyer seeks to serve California parents with a new service that connects parents with child care providers.

The startup, the June Care Company, is a platform that links parents in need of child care with qualified parents who can host children in the form of playdates.

As a mother to three children, Salyer said she recognized the need for accessible and flexible child care. Just before the lockdown, Salyer took a break from her job in high-tech to spend time with her kids and consider her next career move. Because she was a stay-at-home mom, she took on a supportive role to friends who were unable to take time off from work once the pandemic hit.

By coordinating their weekly schedules, Salyer and her peers created a network in which every family can receive care and be paid for their time hosting playdates. June Care’s community-based approach to child care was the natural evolution from the system she and other local parents developed in the past year.

“That was really the genesis for June Care,” Salyer said. “I wanted to figure out how I can create these networks of support primarily for moms, because they’re still the ones who really feel the burden of child care the most.”

June Care launched in August, employing a gig-based model similar to that of Uber and Airbnb. Users can either search for child care or sign up to be a playdate host, and June Care will facilitate matches based on a parent’s needs. The Los Altos-based service requires that all host parents undergo a background check and personal screening before they are eligible to host a playdate. Parents have the option to speak with hosts before a playdate and cancel a meeting for any reason without penalty.

“We handle logistics, scheduling and payments, so all you need to worry about is meeting a new friend and creating a great playdate experience for your child,” Salyer said in a post on the June Care Instagram account.

Meeting a need

June Care launched in the midst of a national child care shortage, a problem that existed before the pandemic but was greatly exacerbated by it. While the shortage is not as dire as it was in spring of last year, the recovery has been slow, with California operating at 90% of its pre-pandemic child care workforce as of September.

Lack of child care has been shown to contribute to the labor shortage in other sectors because parents are unable to accept employment opportunities without reliable care for their children. Salyer aims to give income opportunities back to both working and stay-at-home parents.

“Opportunities to earn an income while you’re actually caring for your kids are so few and far between,” Salyer said. “The magic of June Care is that we unlock the care work supply that’s happening in so many homes across the country and make it accessible for parents who are looking for child care.”

Salyer also emphasized the social benefit of using the service. The name was conceived by Salyer’s 8-year-old daughter; “June” stands for “joining up neighbors everywhere.” The playdate model allows the children to socialize with other kids around their age and parents to connect with local families they wouldn’t have met without the service.

“It’s rooted in community and connection,” Salyer said. “To give people the opportunity to actually rely on their neighbors again is so cool.”

June Care currently serves families throughout California, and there are plans to expand nationwide.

For more information on finding care or becoming a host, visit junecare.co.