What is a babysitting cooperative?
A babysitting co-op, sometimes called a babysitting club or co-op, is a group of families in a community that decides to share the babysitting task by exchanging time with each other rather than receiving money. This way, house members can access occasional childcare services without worrying about the high cost or risk of using a paid babysitter.
This approach to childcare has many benefits. It is easier and cheaper for beginners than regular babysitting. Also, instead of relying on one or two caregivers who may or may not be available, you can reach perhaps 10 or 20 families, which can make finding someone in a hurry much easier.
For those without immediate family, a coop can be an invaluable way to get away for a few hours without the additional cost of childcare for the kids to spend with their spouses or for a “date night”.
Finally, with the cost of daycare rising, some people are using babysitting coops to provide regular daycare once or twice a week. Getting a child to daycare for just one day a week or occasional days can be overwhelming, but sharing the task among several families can make it much easier.
Babysitting coops have few drawbacks and perhaps the only problem is the task of managing the process. For example, the role of secretary can be quite challenging. However, there are some new ways to fix this problem, see below for more information.
There are two basic approaches to running a cooperative. The first uses paper-based “babysitting money”. Each unit is equal to a fixed unit of time. Families then contact each other directly to arrange and pay for seating.
The second type changes points, for example 4 points per sitting hour. A secretary books sessions and oversees points processing. Both systems can work well, but most groups prefer the points approach.
Cooperatives often elect a rotating secretary. If a member needs to babysit, the secretary is called to request a babysitter at a specific time and date. The secretary searches for members and finds a carer as close to the member’s home as possible and tries to find a carer with points. The secretary then calls the member and sets up the seating arrangement.
After care is provided, both the member and the caregiver agree on the number of points and this is reported to the secretary who records the points. Points are earned by being a caregiver and providing care. Points are spent using a caregiver to care for your children.
start your cluster
There are two main success factors for starting a new house.
- When starting your cluster, you need to make sure you have a clear set of rules so everyone knows how the process will work. Rules to consider include:
- How small/large the cooperative can be: a minimum of five and a maximum of 25 are generally considered the best.
- How will new members be introduced?
- Starting points for each family.
- How many hours is each point worth?
- Minimum scores below which a family is not allowed to claim residence.
- How will the reservation process work?
You will probably also want to have medical consent forms ready so that families can formally authorize the resident family to receive emergency medical treatment if needed.
- Make sure you have regular (perhaps quarterly or semiannual) meetings so everyone can introduce themselves and get to know each other. Normally these are done at a member’s home or at a park so kids can come too.
When searching for members of your co-op, it’s best to find other families with similar parenting practices and life values as your own. There are many places to look, including your local playgroup, school/preschool, childcare centre, parents and citizen clubs, church, neighbors and the child’s sports or activity clubs.
One last thing to consider when setting up your co-op is the idea of using it to change more than just babysitting. Perhaps you can use the car to participate in children’s activities or to take care of your pets when you go. When you bring people and the process together, there are many other uses for your cluster that save time and money.