Again, let me reiterate the sticker SHOCK associated with childcare…
$90 for 3 hours
- dessert and coffee
- a movie
- and childcare…assuming you can get all of that done in 3 hours!
As I mentioned, we have joined one co-op and are in the process of forming another. In this process I’ve found several resources and various ways of organizing and managing a co-op no matter what your group size or goal.
First, we talked about two basic structures to a co-op:
1. Members agree to a specific day/time for date nights and the “babysitters” rotate each scheduled night.
For example, Saturday nights, twice a month from 6-10pm is date night and each family takes a turn babysitting for the group in their home. If you had 4 couples and went out twice a month each couple would babysit 1 time every 8 weeks2.
2. Babysitting requests are made on a one-by-one basis and whoever is available babysits for the requesting family. This gives you more options and flexibility but less consistency!
Now, here are some considerations before jumping into a co-op:
Seek out families with similarities. This is as simple as approaching other families involved in the same activities as your family.
- Your local Mom’s Club, MOPS, Mother’s of Twins or any family support group. Members will likely be interested in forming one. Just ask the board to bring it up for a vote.
- Families of your child’s classmates, extra-curricular activities, etc.
- Your church.
- Your neighborhood. This makes pick-up and drop-off a breeze!
Decide on a structure. Once you’ve gauged interest, you want to decide whether to set up a scheduled date night or a more flexible one-on-one babysitting by request arrangement. Are you looking for occasional care for appointments, salon days, “mommy time” or are you looking for regular date nights or are you hoping for both?
Set up some initial play dates or family dinners. A cook out or a pot-luck is a great way for parents and kids to get to know each other better! One or two dinners may be all it will take for you to know if you are comfortable leaving your children in the care of these families.
It is important to actually meet each of the family members in your co-op, and if the dads will be involved in babysitting during date nights you’ll want to meet them as well to make sure you feel comfortable leaving your child/children in their care.
Sign up with a service like Babysitter Exchange. A service will to take the task of “secretary” off individual members of the group in a new co-op. This service even offer some rules you can adjust as you see fit although you’ll still have to formulate the by-laws should your group chose to go that route.
Develop your groups rules, guidelines or by-laws. Depending on the size of your group some of these things may happen later or may never occur:
- Think about the co-op growing and encompassing additional families and how that might alter the dynamics of the group.
- Elect a recorder and chairperson and decide on “term limits.”
- Be specific in your guidelines.
- Be restrictive at first if you agree on the basic premise. You can always loosen the guidelines down the road but making them more restrictive will be harder!
- Cover all the potential issues you can think of and leave room for additions.
Creat a roster, calendar and tracking sheet (or use the Babysitter Exchange service) and exchange each family’s basic information.
Forms you MUST HAVE from each family:
- Emergency Medical Authorization form (one for each child, signed by the parent or parents). I think it’s appropriate to keep copies of these (undated) in a central, accessible location.
- Family information form. You can easily create one for your group to use and it should include contact phone numbers, any trusted relatives or family friends in the area that could be called in an emergency, preferred hospital, allergies, medical issues and other special needs.
- Co-op agreement or by-laws formulated by the group and signed by each family.
All of this may seem very formal at the outset, but I think it sets a precedent for all new members and provides some sense of security.
The final step: requesting and scheduling your first co-op date!
A few good links to read:
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