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Structure for babysitting co-ops
A friend and I are thinking of starting a babysitting co-op and were
wondering about how to structure it. Specifically,
--Does it work better to keep it small (3-5 families)? I've heard of very large
ones with 10-12 families, but can't quite imagine how it all comes together.
--How do you deal with some families having one and other families more
kids? Do you assign points or something so that babysitting more kids uses
up more points? Or is it better to do the trades with families that have the
same number of kids?
--Do people formalize the tracking of the trades, or just keep rough track?
("We babysat for the Jones last week, so maybe we'll ask them to babysit for
us next month" vs. "Every other Friday the Jones' babysit for us and every
third Wednesday we trade with the Smith's"...) or something else?
Thanks for any info you might have on what's worked or not worked for you!
I'm in a neighborhood babysitting co-op that has been in existance for
about 30 years. There have always been aprox. 22 families. They've
found that less or more just doesn't work very well. We work with
points. There is a monthly book-keeper. When you want a sit you call
the book keeper and that person calls various families to see who can
sit. They start with the people with the more negative points first.
Then the sitter calls the sittee to arrange specifics. There are
certain amounts of points just for doing the sit (4), other points if
it's a weekend or holiday, points per kid, points if the child is
served a meal at your house and points for after 1AM. I'd say on an
average night out with 2 kids a sitter will earn between 20-30 points
or so. You can't accumulate above or below 120 points. You can call
the sitters directly for a last minute sit and then call the
bookkeeper. It's all kept track of in a binder book and at the end of
the month the points all have to work out to zero (don't ask me how,
it just does). The sitter calls the book keeper to report points after
the sit, within 2 weeks. We have 2 co-op "chairs" or coordinators
(I'm one). When a new family comes into the co-op (always referred by
a member) we go to their house and meet them. Though it's pretty
loose, we just need to get a feel of who they are, how they diciplin,
how safe is their house (though most sits are done in the sittees
home) and if they have any firearms in the house (so far, none do).
It seems like people with little babies tend to sit for others with
little babies (you can sometimes, if appropriate request a sitter, and
certainly request NOT to have a certain sitter) but not necessarily.
If it's a day sit often the child comes to your house (this is when
it's nice to have similar age kids to your own). We've been in the
co-op for over 2 years now and it's been fabulous (We were on a
waiting list for a year). We never have to worry about where to find a
sitter. If we know a week or more in advance we're guaranteed to have
a sitter. There are some times that it's harder....everyone wants
sitters around holiday times, and people are gone a lot in the summer,
but usually it's a great thing.
We've made some good friends, met more of our neighbors and also have
brought some of our local friends into the co-op. Twice a year we
have a "business meeting" pot-luck get together. I'd be happy to talk
to you further about this. I could show you the forms we use for book
keeping. Good luck.
I formed a babysitting co-op with some friends of mine that I met in a
mother's group. We have been very casual about it and it worked
really well. There were three of us in the group when the babies were
really young. As soon as they were over a year or so, we added
another person. Basically we just had two people stay with the three
babies and one person got to go out. We started at two hours and then
went to three. In the beginning, it was the only free time any of us
got from the kids during the day. We just switched off every week.
If one of the kids was sick, we just skipped that week and that person
got their turn the next week - very casual.
We also did an weekend evening swap with another couple. Each weekend
we would switch off for three hours. Again, very casual. If one
couple had plans, we put it off to the next weekend. It has really
worked for us. And, it's really nice to have something that's
reciprocal. That way you never feel guilty about having someone watch
your child because you'll be watching theirs next week.
I belong to a well established one, with 20 families and would be happy
to tell you how it works if you want to give me a call. Briefly: it is
run on a point system per child: 4 pts per hour for the 1st kid and 2 pts
for each additional kid in that family, per hour. We have formal by-laws,
meetings, and a secretary position to keep track of points and other
business. It works well!
Oh, I loved the baby sitting coop we were in (North Cleveland Park Baby
Sitting Coop in Washington, DC) when my children were little. It worked
really well for us.
There were about 15 or so families, all of us lived in upper NW DC (north
of Cleveland Park, actually, but that was where it had started), and most
of us (those with school age children) had children at the same pre-k-6th
public elementary school.
It operated via "scrip" which you used to pay for baby sitting. (Two
scrip per hour per child in the evening, the baby sitter came to your
house. One scrip per hour per child in the daytime, the child/ren
came to the baby sitter's house.) You got some number of scrip when
you joined. Each month, one family was the secretary (you got 50
scrip for being secretary) and the job rotated. If you needed a
sitter, you could either arrange it privately, then call the secretary
to let him/her know OR (this was the best part) you could call the
secretary, tell the secretary when you needed the sitter, and the
secretary would find someone for you!
In the three years we were members, we always got a sitter when we
needed one. Being secretary (which, I think we did two or three
times) was a hassle, but seems would be MUCH easier now with computers
and email. Some people liked being secretary better than doing
baby-sitting. Also, when you were secretary, you had first choice for
the sits if you needed some scrip. The coop had a yearly picnic so
you could meet people, but I think that everyone joined through
friends so most people were "known." A couple of teachers at the
elementary school were also members which added to the community sense
of this group.
One of the other really nice things about this (besides having adult
sitters, not costing anything, getting to know people in your
community) was that it was possible to get sitters for really long
times or if you were going to be out very late.
People tended to move on as their kids reached 11, 12 years (unless
their other children were much younger). We moved to California, but
I think that it would have been great to have some adult child sitting
available when my children were in middle school!
If I can answer any other questions about the logistics of this group,
just write me. I'd be happy to tell you anything else I remember
about how it worked.
I was in a playgroup with 4 other moms that evolved into a very
successful babysitting co-op that lasted for many years. We all
had at least 2 kids, the oldest were about kindergarten age, and we
always had between 5 and 7 families participating. The way
it worked: every other Friday night it is someone's turn to "host" the
babysitting night. All the kids go to that person's house, have a big
party with a movie and snacks. The parents drop the kids off and then
go out. Sometimes we would have it on a Saturday afternoon instead so
parents could run errands without kids. Since there were 5-7 families,
your turn to host only came around every 2-3 months. Not bad. Plus,
the hosting parents didn't have to do much because the kids all played
together and entertained themselves. We had a rule that babies in
diapers weren't included, though you could make a special arrangement
with the host parents if they were willing. When the kids got older,
we would sometimes have a sleepover. The kids really loved babysitting
coop night because they had known each other a long time from playgroup,
and were like cousins, and liked to see each other. The parents liked
it because unlike the more formal babysitting co-ops, we didn't have to
plan ahead to arrange for a babysitter, we always knew we'd have a date
every other Friday night (though there were times when people dropped
their kids off and then went back home to sleep for a few hours.)
We were in a very successful babysitting coop in the midwest before we moved here,
which worked essentially as follows no matter the size of the family, it was a straight
hour-for-hour trade. In other words, if you sat for an hour, you "earned" an hour credit.
We rotated keeping the book which recorded plus and minus hours by family. Every
quarter or so, we met & everyone got a tally of how far into the "plus" or "minus" range
you were. The people in the "minus" range were the most likely to want to sit, so they
were often called first. However, people whose kids were friends tended to call each other.
When you sat for someone, it was your responsibility to call your hours in to the
secretary for the month. We all kept a personal tally and reconciled them at the
meetings, which were also social occasions. We also did a campout, a picnic, a Christmas
party, a swim party, etc. every year.
When you wanted someone to sit, you negotiated your own terms if you wanted it at
someone else's house, fine. If the parent on the other end was only willing to do it at
their own house & you wanted it at yours (maybe because you didn't want to rouse your
kids to bring them home) you tried the next person on the list.
There were probably 15 families--maybe more--and all had been screened.
They had to have a personal invitation from someone who knew them, and the president
or someone visited their house. (This because we discovered belatedly that a former
member had a spouse with a history of physical abuse towards wife and kids.) The
president and bookeeper earned hours for the administrative tasks performed. There
were some extremely modest dues, to cover postage.
When our kids were small this was a godsend. We found we were much more secure,
knowing adults who were parents were taking care of our wee ones who couldn't talk yet.
This allowed us to relax more on the rare occasions we went out. Also, if something
sudden came up, you could always count on our sitter. We bankrolled our hours like
precious gold. If we went "in the hole" it felt worse than credit card debt or a second
mortgage--although whenn we were "in the hole", we would always get called.
As kids grew up, parents dropped out--usually honorably, either with even hours or a
positive balance that got distributed between the members. As I recall, the coop had
existed since the 60's & was still going strong when we left.
Good luck--it is a worthwhile endeavor.
Check with Bananas (on Claremont at Telegraph) -- I've heard that they have a
hand-out on how to structure a babysitting co-op.
I've been meaning to write to add my two cents, for those who want yet more information about
forming a babysitting co-op. I was part of a babysitting co-op in the East Bay which was formed
by some folks to used a How to Start a Baby Sitting Co-op Book to get them started. Since
we've moved to Madison and I have started a co-op out here which has now been going strong
for about a year and a half. We even have a waiting list. I think one thing that has made our
co-op successful is having detailed, specific by-laws. Also we have monthly socials and while all
families don't attend every one, there are enough socials, that families see each other
frequently enough to feel part of a community. There are also group sits at least once a
month-- kind of like kids' parties where the host family racks up a bunch of hours by taking as
many kids as they can handle at once. These have been great for helping the children further
develop relationships with other kids in the co-op. I feel good about using the co-op since i trust
all the parents and my son loves to go play with the other kids. One day when a sit got
cancelled, he cried! I'd highly recommend a babysitting co-op. Our lives are so much richer for
having this community which also allows us to do yoga, have dates, clean the house, take
classes....If you're interested, in hearing more, I'd be happy to send you a copy of our bylaws
which as I mentioned are pretty detailed and specific. We have modified the east bay co-op's
by-laws several times. Please email if you'd like a copy.
How to start a babysitting co-op
Hi I'm starting a babysitting coop and wanted to see if others here
have done this and how they've set it up. How do you keep track of
hours? What info do you need from parents to set it up? How do you
deal with families with a different number of children, say one
family that has a single child and another that has a same-aged child
and an infant? Do you record per child or something in between? Are
there any pitfalls to look out for? How much maintenance does this
kind of scheme take? Sophie
I loved the babysitting coop we belong to in Washington, DC. It created a great
community. We were in it about five years. People tended to leave as their
children reached middle school age. (We moved and GREATLY missed having it until
our children were old enough to stay home alone.) There were about 15 families
and there was a yearly picnic so you could meet everyone. (Many of the families
when we belonged had children at two DC pre-K to 6th grade public school and nearby
Here's how it worked: points ( "scrip,"I think I still have some in a drawer)
which you exchanged with each other. You got points for each sit that you did (per
hour, per child). You got more points (per hour, per child) in the evening or on
weekends. The person babysitting came to your house in the evening. During the
day, however, the child or children came to the babysitter's house. Weekend days
were up to the people involved. When you joined the coop you got enough scrip for
quite a few sits (even with three children).
Each month there was a record keeper (the "secretary"). You got LOTS of extra
points for doing this job (which rotated). If you needed a sitter, you called the
record keeper who then called the members until finding you a sitter. You could
also make arrangements on your own. Then you were supposed to call the record
keeper so he or she could update the master record. (The idea was to call people
for sits who were low on scrip so they could earn more.) I would guess that this
would be much easier and faster with email. (We left about seven years ago before
many people had email at home. I remember that the first use of the computer was
to develop an easy-to-read graphic format for record keeping.) I'd be happy to
fill you in on more of the details. We almost always got a sitter. Occasionally
when we were doing the record keeping, it would be hard to fill a request. But
almost always, it worked very smoothly. It was great for people with very cash,
with small babies (since the sitters were all parents), for late nights, on
weeknights, for long weekend days. Later on, my kids enjoyed teenage babysitters,
but generally that was a much less reliable route, and I missed the coop.
I was in a babysitting co-op with 5 other families. We started out as a
playgroup for pre-preschool children but as they got older, we wanted to try
babysitting for each other at night. We each had 2-3 children where the
youngest were toddlers and the oldest were 1-2 grade. One person had an
infant, but infants weren't included because of the overhead. Every other
week there would be a co-op "party" at somebody's house, usually on Saturday
night but sometimes Sat. afternoon. Each family took a turn hosting one of
these parties, and your turn would be about once every two months. All the
kids would go to the party, where there would be a movie and popcorn or some
other snack (the kids would have had dinner already). The kids had a great
time socializing with each other, and parents had time to go to a movie or
out to dinner or just relax at home without the kids for 3 hours. Usually
everyone came, because the kids really looked forward to it, even when the
parents were too tired to go out! It really was not much work to host a
party because the kids all played so well togther that it was actually
easier than being at home with just yours. It worked really well I think
because it was a regular time, and everyone knew whose turn it was, and the
kids really liked coming.
I'm one of the people who asked this question before. I finally
did start a babysitting coop. What got it going is that we use
http://www.babysitterexchange.com/ which was advertised on this
list a while ago. I believe the service is still free though
that may change. The one major drawback is that it only works on
Explorer. Otherwise, the website keeps track of babysitting
requests and transfers credit-hours.
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