Fort Bend County resident Aliya Qureshi had been jobless for years, so getting her 14-year-old daughter to and from activities wasn’t difficult.
But she saw how her friends and working moms in the area were struggling to balance their child’s activities with full-time employment, so she stepped in to help while also helping herself. Qureshi has become one of HopSkipDrive’s first drivers in the Greater Houston area for HopSkipDrive, a transportation service for kids.
“I remember my friends having to leave their jobs and go pick up and drop them off (before returning to work),” she said. “I think this system will be welcomed here, and everybody will be happy with it. It’s very safe and secure for the kids.”
HopSkipDrive launched service in the Houston area, including Fort Bend County, on Aug. 26. Since its inception in 2014, the company has served families and schools in Arizona, California, Colorado, Virginia and the Washington, D.C. metro area.
Joanna McFarland, the CEO and co-founder of HopSkipDrive, she said was struggling to get her son to karate lessons after school when she attended a birthday party five years ago and realized other moms had transportation challenges.
“I jokingly said, ‘We should throw money in a hat, buy a van, and have moms in the neighborhood drive all the kids around’,” McFarland said. “One of my co-founders looked at me and said, ‘Yeah, let’s do that.’ ”
McFarland and co-founders Janelle McGlothlin and Caroyln Yashari Becher, who have a total of eight kids who attend five different schools, were full-time working moms in Los Angeles when the company was born. They have driven more than 625,000 kids to over 6,000 schools with “nannies on wheels.”
Parents can use the HopSkipDrive app or website to request rides to and from school or extracurricular activities for children ages 6 and
older. Rides can be reserved as little as eight hours in advance or by 7 p.m. the night before for morning rides, and parents can customize ride instructions such as carpool line and pickup and drop-off notes such as sign-in/out requests.
“As a working mother of two, I understand how challenging it is to balance your children’s ever-changing daily schedules with workplace demands,” McFarland said. “Parents shouldn’t have to choose between their careers and their children’s education and activities, but that tough choice is very real for countless families. We want parents to take comfort in knowing they have a caregiver to rely on to get their kids where they need to go, safely and without worry.”
In order to become a “CareDriver,” a person must have at least five years of caregiving experience and pass a 15-point certification process, which includes background checks and fingerprinting. Before the ride, parents receive a photo profile of their CareDriver, which
they can share with their child and their school. Parents can book and track rides from start to finish through HopSkipDrive’s mobile app and get live text notifications.
Each child also has a code word the CareDriver will use to confirm the ride. In addition, HopSkipDrive’s Safe Ride Support (SRS), staffed with former 911 operators, EMTs, childcare specialists and parents, monitors every ride in real time.
Rides start at $17 – comparable to the hourly rate of a driving babysitter – and increase according to time and distance to a destination. The service also partners with school districts to simplify specialized transportation for students with special needs, youth in foster care and school choice placements that don’t fit neatly into a bus routing plan. HopSkipDrive declined to say whether FBISD or SMSD are among their partners in Houston.
“We do far more than most families even do to find a nanny or caregiver,” McFarland said. “It was personal to me, and I realized there really wasn’t a solution out there so we decided to create one.
“We wanted to design it for our own kids, with safety from the ground up. We thought about what it would take for us to feel comfortable and tried to incorporate that into the product.”
Barely a week into her endeavor as a driver, Qureshi has already seen the impact those measures can have on a child and parent’s mind.
“It provides immediate peace of mind,” she said. “This is a very good thing they’ve brought here.”
For more information about HopSkipDrive, visit hopskipdrive.com and download the app to check service availability. Schools can learn how to partner with HopSkipDrive by emailing email@example.com.