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A babysitting co-op can be a great way for parents to get the occasional babysitting help without paying cash for it. This type of group requires lots of organization and agreed upon rules to be successful. It also requires that those who join the co-op will be willing to not only ask for babysitting services but also to donate them.
Size and organization of a baby-sitting co-op is important. Most have at least five parents to begin with, and these parents may be located fairly close to each other. At the beginning of each month, parents are given a certain amount of babysitting chips. These can be just plain old chips.
Each chip can represent either an hour or half hour of babysitting. Parents must decide not only how many hours they’d like babysitting, but also the hours they’re willing to babysit. This means the number of chips can depend on an agreed amount of hours of childcare per month each member can expect to give and receive.
When a parent needs a sitter, she calls members of the babysitting co-op to see who is available. She will then pay the sitting parent chips based on total babysitting. In order for this parent to continue to get babysitting services, she must earn back chips by babysitting for others in the co-op. A more organized approach to the babysitting co-op is to have parents assigned to weekly shifts, so other parents know who is available at any given time during the week. This continual exchange of chips can mean that most parents have access to babysitting on a regular basis.
The babysitting co-op may work best when all rules are planned in advance. Groups should agree on the consequences if parents are late picking up kids, or if babysitting more kids (say a friend’s five children) is more costly in chips than babysitting two kids. The group may also want to establish a code of conduct for babysitters and ask people to get training in things like infant and child CPR.
If a babysitting co-op gets too large, parents may no longer know with whom they’re leaving their kids. Some people who have organized these co-ops suggest that there should be no more than 20 parents in the co-op. A larger number of parents who want to participate should possibly form a second group. There are also some basic concerns about leaving your kids with people you don’t know well. Keeping the co-op smaller and being able to know all parents involved may help allay these concerns.
There are definite advantages to forming a babysitting co-op. It can mean parents can get some free time without having to dole out money to do so. These groups tend to be successful when parents have similar parenting ideals, similar schedules and know each other well. Co-ops also fare better when very clear rules about how the co-op will work are established at the onset. Parents must understand that the babysitting co-op can only work if they agree to give as much as they receive babysitting services.
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