Parent apprehensive about childcare in the Bay Area

I moved to Oakland from Mendocino a few years ago after my husband and I were engaged.  We now have a 21-month old boy, and I am overwhelmed by the prospect of finding occasional childcare for him.  Coming from a small town, there is a certain kind of accountability that exists that I haven't found here at is a lot easier to find like-minded families that you know and trust that if they recommend someone, you can be sure that person is trustworthy because if they weren't, the whole town would know.

Maybe I'm old-fashioned, but finding childcare online through recommendations of people I haven't met is not something I feel comfortable with.  However we are at a point where I feel my son can benefit from spending time with someone aside from my husband and I, we could use a date night every now and again, and I would absolutely love to take a yoga class once/week!  I haven't found a community of parents I connect with here at all, even though we go to different parks and activities almost every single day.  So I have nobody else to ask.

Any advice or recommendations would be greatly appreciated.

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How about part-time toddler preschool? Two or three mornings a week, maybe a coop where you volunteer one day a week. We liked Teeter Tots in El Cerrito for that age, Berkeley has something similar, maybe Oakland does too.

You could try joining a gym that does yoga classes and has a crèche on-site where you can put your child eg Bladium in Alameda. That would ease you (and him) in and from there you might be able to ask the people who work in the crèche if they do babysitting or if they could recommend someone. Or ask friends? Or even do babysitting swaps with friends. I too wouldn't risk using someone who isn't recommended by someone I know. 

There is an organization called Swiss Cheese Childcare that I have tried once and they have vetted and background checked babysitters, but it's really expensive. 

Hello,I live in Oakland too. If you haven't done yet, try facebook groups. There's Oakland 2015/2016 babies group that I am part of. There's also childcare  subgroups under mamahood eastbay. And you're right it's so difficult for me to trust a babysitter without having recommendations from others too! So let me know what you got. I can recommend someone too if she's still available. 

Hi! We moved to the Bay Area from North Carolina right before my son was due, didn't know a soul and had no family in the area, so your post resonates with me. We had luck with Swiss cheese for date nights--they vet their sitters and we felt comfortable with all of them. You can also chat with them before you book so you have control of your choices. We also used to find our permanent part time nanny and she was great.  Another idea if you're not in a hurry--hang around the toddler parks in Oakland and Berkeley and chat with other moms and nannies. If you mention you are trying to find someone you might make a connection.  

The downtown Berkeley Y (gym) has yoga classes and very affordable childcare on-site. 

I suggest contacting Mills College School of Education to see if you can post a job there; they have a lab school on site, and their grad students at the school of ed have experience working at the school. Our experiences with their grad students have been fabulous. You might also check out Montclair Community Play Center in Oakland. They have a toddler play time in the afternoons that's a great way to meet other families, and it's a good way to ask around about babysitter recommendations. UrbanSitter is also a way to find sitters that have been booked/recommended by Facebook friends and others in your network. We found our sitter this way. Kindergym with Dawn (just google it) is also a good place to meet other parents and exchange childcare intel. Good luck!