With each new generation, it seems people are more transient and decisions on where to live are not always based on closeness to family. In times past, grandmothers or aunts were so intimately involved in a family’s life, particularly due to their proximity, that the need for “babysitting” by non-family members was rarely necessary. More and more, families are separated by large distances, and when in need of sitting it is best to be able to turn to the community. Some communities, including some in the Twin Cities, have formed babysitting co-ops. Rather than paying a babysitter, the cost is free, and it builds neighbor and child connections. If you want to form your own, here are some guidelines:
How it works: One hour of child care per child is paid for with a one hour coupon for use throughout the co-operative network.
What you need to get started: Trusted members and clear rules and safety standards. Find members by reaching out to your immediate communities with children: neighbors, ECFE, church, synagogue, etc., and then hold a meeting to decide how the group will organize.
Rules: Decide on the rules and keep in mind the following: (1) sitting only happens when it is absolutely convenient for the family doing the sitting and (2) families need not explain their no to a request for sitting. Rules should also clearly state how new members enter.
Forms: When a family joins a co-op, they might receive an introductory packet of coupons, contact/information sheet, co-op rules, family information and transportation authorization. Packet contents should be determined during the initiation of the co-op and forms should be kept on file by the program leaders.
Communication: Newsletters and web sites are great ways to communicate within a group and build community.
Group mailing lists and information sharing
Creating a newsletter
Starting a babysitting coop
How to Organize a Babysitting Cooperative and Get Some Free Time Away from the Kids, Carole Terwilliger Meyers, Carousel Press, 1976.