Getting a child from home to school and to any extracurricular activities can be a struggle—even for families with strong support systems. Ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft aren’t an option because there needs to be at least one adult passenger (18 or older) with the minor while riding in the car. This is why HopSkipDrive is quickly becoming the go-to transportation option for parents, school districts, and counties across the United States.
HopSkipDrive was founded in 2014 by Joanna McFarland, Carolyn Yashari Becher, and Janelle McGlothlin—three Los Angeles-based working moms who struggled with these same challenges. They set up a system where professionals could vet drivers (known as “CareDrivers”) and their vehicles, allowing for children as young as six to be transported without an adult passenger.
HopSkipDrive Review — How It Works
Parents go to the app or website and request a ride, which can be booked eight hours in advance, or by 7:00pm for rides the next morning. They can customize ride instructions, and before the ride they receive a photo profile of the CareDriver to share with the child, school, and whoever else needs to see it. During the ride, parents receive progress alerts along the way and are notified when the job is done.
Since launching, this mid-stage startup has grown rapidly. The company has partnered with more than 150 schools and districts, driven more than 625,000 kids to over 6,000 schools, and helped thousands of homeless students and youth in foster care attend their schools of origin. It currently operates across California, Colorado, DC Metro and Northern Virginia areas, and was recently permitted to offer services in Arizona and Texas starting this fall.
HopSkipDrive Review — Safety Check
“We offer safe, reliable rides for kids from caregivers,” Chris Bertolet, HopSkipDrive’s Director of B2B Marketing, tells Parentology. “We insist that CareDrivers be prepared to put a young rider first in every situation.”
To ensure that, CareDrivers must have at least five years of caregiving experience and go through a 15-point certification process. This includes fingerprinting, background checks that include FBI and Department of Justice database searches, driving record checks, and in-person meetings. The cars are also inspected by certified mechanics.
Then there are concerns about the actual driving. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration conducted a two-year study and found that 94 percent of accidents were caused due to human failure. HopSkipDrive tackles that statistic with their Safe Ride Support team.
“We call them our ground-traffic controllers — the people behind the technology,” says Bertolet. While transportation companies often have GPS-enabled technology, the public doesn’t know how they use it or whether there are live humans monitoring rides. “We’re the only company, at least that we know of, with a US-based ride support team that watches all these trips in real time.”
The Safe Ride Support team includes former 911 operators, EMTs, childcare specialists, and parents. They monitor every single trip, interpreting alerts, assessing dynamic risk, and communicating with CareDrivers and organizers to resolve small problems before they become big ones. The specialists come online an hour before the first trip begins, typically about 4am EST, and shut down only after the final ride is completed, which can be as late as midnight PST.
Transportation & Education for All
Students who are homeless or in foster care often get bounced around from school to school or have to start over at a new location. This can leave them feeling untethered, without their usual friends, and makes learning more difficult. The federal Every Student Succeeds Act mandates that states, counties, and school districts work together to create systems through which foster students can be transported to their school of origin if a judge has determined that it’s in that foster student’s best interest. The McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act works similarly, but for homeless youth.
HopSkipDrive helps locals school districts and governments meet those needs.
“This also expands into rides to court appointments or visitations with biological parents — essentially anything that helps foster kids lead more normal lives,” Bertolet explains.
With the advent of school choice in certain states, districts have also used HopSkipDrive to transport students where bus services weren’t an option. A 2009 report from the University of Washington and the University of Colorado highlights the importance of this service. The survey of parents in Denver and Washington, D.C. showed that parents would have chosen a different school if better transportation options had been available. However, “lower-income parents, minority parents, single parents, parents with less education and parents in Spanish-speaking households” had a tougher time making it happen due to their circumstances. With HopSkipDrive, some districts are tackling that issue.
As founder Joanna McFarland said in a recent HopSkipDrive statement: “Our mission is to remove mobility-related barriers so kids can thrive at school, while giving schools and districts logistical flexibility, visibility and relief.”