In today’s economic climate, finding quality childcare at a low price is a necessity, but it is also a challenge. For single parents and families in which both parents work, childcare is a necessity. But what do you do if you’re unemployed or can’t afford child care services? A childcare co-op is a good, affordable alternative to sending your child to a child care center or hiring a daycare provider.
What is a Child Care Co-op?
Child care or babysitting co-ops (cooperatives) are alternative child care situations in which participants exchange time and services rather than money. Some child care co-ops are formed from small groups of friends or neighbors, or some may be organized by groups of families that are unfamiliar with each other.
Some child care co-ops use a point system. Members start with a set amount of points and then points are deducted or added based upon your use or contribution. For example, your co-op system may decide that one point is equal to 30 minutes of child care per child. Your co-op may start with 50 points. When your child uses the service points are deducted. Likewise, when you take care of a child, points are added to your total.
How to Organize a Child Care Co-Op
To begin setting up a co-op, first talk to family and neighbors to see who has children and who would be interested in participating in the child care co-op. Once you have established a member’s list, hold a meeting to find out what hours people are available and their expectations of the co-op. The most important thing to consider when setting up a child care co-op is establishing leadership and setting up a clear agreement that everyone follows. One person should be the secretary or secretary duties should be rotated to manage scheduling and keep track of hours and points.
Little and Galik in their article titled “Child Care Co-op: An Alternative for At-home Mothers” [Children Today, 1984] suggests that by asking the following questions, your co-op will run smoothly and more effectively:
- What will you expect from a care provider?
- May parents bring along children of friends who are not members?
- What is the policy for cancellations?
- What rule violations will constitute grounds for being expelled from the co-op?
- How will rules be established and changed?
- How many children may a caregiver manage at once?
- Should sitters be able to shop or run errands with the children?
- How many hours (or points) in debt may a member be before being refused a caregiver? They suggest that any member who does not use the co-op for three months should drop out. Many co-ops have a long waiting list.
- Are child care hours limited to daytime? Or are evening, overnight and weekend hours permitted?
- What hours are off-limits for telephone calls?
- How often will members have group meetings?
As your child care co-op becomes more established you will lose and gain members over time. Be sure to continually advertise your child care co-op the same way you would a child daycare center in your local community in order to sustain an abundant waiting list and keep enrollment steady. This is an excellent child care solution during tough economic times.
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