Bright Horizons Back-Up Care

SF Bay Area

Parent Q&A

  • Hi all, 

    Has anyone used the Bright Horizons back up care program? 

    We have a 2 week nanny vacation coming up in June, and it seems like a great time to use this benefit through my husband's work, but I'm a little nervous about having our toddler stay with a stranger, mostly because he hasn't stayed with many babysitters over the last year (COVID), and I am worried it might be stressful for him. But also just because it feels a little hard to trust someone who you don't interview / get recommendations for / etc. 

    I may be over -worrying this, but would be curious to hear other experiences / opinions. 

    Our son will be about to turn 3 years old at the time. 

    We'd be likely to use the in-home care option (rather than a center based care) because that seems easiest, and my husband works from a little office in our backyard, so he could be around in case he was needed. 

    Thanks for any thoughts  folks can provide! 


    Hi Jess,

    My family used backup care at BH in San Francisco when we used to live there. Pre-COVID, it was relatively easy to get a daycare spot as SF had lots of sites. We were never able to get the in-home option to work because they never had a provider available. At the last moment, they will send an email saying that they can give you money so you can have someone you know watch them, such as a family friend. We found this to be too much trouble and usually just had someone take the day off.

    So, while the in home looks good on paper, the reality was not very good. I imagine that the pandemic has made it even more challenging.

    Best of luck!


    I've used them several times through my work when my son was younger (1-2 years old and had a fever/cold and couldn't go to daycare). The sooner you submit the request the more likely it is they'll be able to book you the same person for the whole time. Otherwise, you'll run into a new person everyday/every other day, which can be hard. The experience overall was fine. It was rarely great but they took care of my son and he was happy at the end of the day. We were also at a bright horizon's daycare for our full-time care, which we loved, but it sounds like that could be more stressful for your kiddo since they're not used to being around strangers. If you do in-home care, just be VERY clear about how you want them to care for your child. Leave them printed directions and a schedule and they'll follow that. I felt the experience was better the more prepared I was for them: clear directions, food prepared, schedule outlined. And of course, it is better if you can get the same person for the week/whole time. Good luck! (Kids are really resilient! It will likely be harder for you than your kiddo. ;) ) 

    We have used it a few times a few years ago, but our son was older (10-ish). Yes, you can't interview/screen the nanny you get. But Bright Horizons does that for you.

    We had good experiences. All cases were for a single day where our son's private school had an off-day. The nanny called us a few days in advance to ask a number of things like any foods she can't bring into the house because of allergies or other reasons, anything she needs to know about our sons schedule or rules etc. We told her no screen time for our son during the day, he needs to practice his musical instrument for at least half an hour and if the weather is good we would like it if they spent some time in one of the two nearby (less than five blocks) parks, perhaps bringing a soccer ball.

    When the nanny arrived, we showed her where our son's room is, where the bathroom is and in the kitchen where glasses, plates and silverware are. Told her which snack foods our son can have and to please help him heat up his lunch in the microwave. Told her she was welcome to use microwave, plates, silverware etc for her own lunch and to please put all used dishes in the dishwasher before we got home. We gave her a key in case they went to the park so that she could lock the house.

    Our son always had fun on those days. Instead of practicing music it felt more like giving a concert, so he practiced longer than needed and they played a bunch of board games.

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My kids go to daycare & school in Oakland & I work in San Francisco.  I get those calls.  I think most daycare places get that it's going to take you some time to physically get from point A to point B and should reasonably be willing to keep your kid there as long as you are communicative & in transit - even if, for example, in my case it's probably going to take 45 minutes to get to them. It is what it is. I even have family in the East Bay, but it would still take them probably 45 minutes to get the kids too so that doesn't really make a difference.

My other thought would be: do you have any close neighbors (presumably also by your daycare) that are maybe retired and would be willing to pick them up and watch them temporarily if you gave them a key? Is your daycare walking distance so you wouldn't have to worry about car seats in cars?  Even that wouldn't be a guarantee they would be around, but may offer peace of mind. Of course, if your kid was SUPER sick and contagious the neighbor probably wouldn't want to be exposed...

If your question is more: how can I get someone to watch my child when they're sick so I can still go to work? a) Does your employer offer Bright Horizons back-up care as a benefit? It is great, they will send someone to your house with fairly short notice for a reasonable fee, even if your kid has a "mild" fever (they won't administer medicine though, so it has to be pretty mild). I believe your employer has to offer this though I don't think you as a consumer can just randomly use it.... my work didn't, but I suggested it, and we now have it (it took about a year to get them to go through all the hoops though).  b) Otherwise, you just have to call in sick and/or leave mid day. Stressful at the time, & in the moment feels like a big deal - but most people get it.  It probably feels like a much bigger deal to you than it does to your boss or anyone around you.