A childcare cooperative is one of the parenting support groups that may prove beneficial if you're one of those parents who juggles parenthood with other tasks, roles and responsibilities. Child care can sometimes put an extra burden on the household bills; even a few hours of babysitting each week can already translate to hundreds of dollars lost. Alternatively, a childcare cooperative may help lighten the load without you shelling out a huge amount of your hard-earned money.
What Is It?
A childcare co-op is usually an informal organization that consists of families in a certain community. It allows members to have time for themselves by sharing child care tasks without the exchange of money. Most of the members are stay-at-home moms and they usually take turns babysitting. A record of all the cooperative's activities and members is usually kept by one of the members. This kind of cooperative is excellent for small neighborhoods and communities who live within a few blocks from each other.
Aside from giving parents free time to unwind or relax, a childcare cooperative has other advantages, too. Children make new friends, develop better social skills and get to build close ties with other families. No--or only a minimal amount--of money is spent while parents get to see their children interact with other children.
If you want to organize a child care cooperative in your neighborhood, start by contacting all your neighbors and find out or conduct a survey on who has children and how many, the children's ages, and if the parents are willing to join the cooperative. You can also ask them for the days and hours they are available so you can schedule a meeting. Additional information that you can ask for includes hobbies, work schedules and babysitting preferences.
Organizing the First Meeting
A pot-luck lunch or dinner is an excellent opportunity for the first meeting among parents. One of the first meeting's agenda could include everyone receiving a list of all the members' names as well as a copy of relevant data you've collected earlier on. Let the parents talk amongst themselves and let them decide who gets to keep the record book.
You can devise your own point system, but you can base it on this premise: points are earned when a family member or parent provides care while points are spent or given away when a parent leaves her children in the care of other parents.
After the group has appointed a group leader and a secretary, the issue on record keeping should be tackled as well. The record book should include the names of parents, their contact numbers, home addresses and the names and ages of each family's children. On the other column, point debit and credits can be placed. Weekly, bimonthly or monthly meetings can be arranged while updating records.
For the cooperative to thrive, certain ground rules should be established. It is important for each member to air her concerns and expectations and share it with other parents. Examples of these include rules on what a member cannot do while watching the children or on what grounds can a member be expelled from a group.