Start your babysitting cooperative off right with solid policies that protect each family. These sample babysitting cooperative rules allow you to pick and choose the guidelines you want to include for your own group:
Set Membership Limits for the Babysitting CooperativeAn overly large co-op means you usually have a babysitter available at all times but it also means your chances of leaving your child with someone you barely know are even higher. Many co-ops limit the number of families who can participate at one time. This keeps members active, babysitting time distributed evenly and parents and kids begin seeing familiar faces.
Consider putting a cap on how many families can join the coop. After a limit of 20 families is reached, for example, the group should begin a waiting list. Only after a family drops out of the co-op is the next person on the list eligible to join.
Write Babysitting Cooperative BylawsSome babysitting co-ops have more structure than big businesses. Founding members write bylaws that include the group's objective, membership rules, general rules on how the co-op works, duties of the coordinator (if applicable) and how much you must participate to remain an active member. Each parent must agree to the babysitting co-op's bylaws before they can join the group.
Bylaws are not a good choice for every co-op, though. They do make the co-op feel strict but bylaws ensure every member is on the same page when it comes to understanding and following the rules.
Accept New Members into the Babysitting CooperativeWill you accept any parent who wants to be in your co-op? You can open your group up to the public or start with recommendations from other co-op members.
Anyone wanting to join should be open to a home visit. There are many co-ops that won't even consider your membership until you undergo a background check through the police department as well.
While some families can be scared off or feel their privacy is being violated, these are the people you will be entrusting your children to if they're accepted in the co-op. Every member should go through the same procedures to keep the children safe. If accepted, new members will be taking their kids to another parent's house and they'll know you took every precaution to check them out too.
Ask Tough Questions of Potential MembersYou wouldn't randomly drive down a street, choose a house, walk up to the stranger's door and hand over your child. Trust is a huge factor in any babysitting cooperative.
Potential members should fill out a questionnaire before their membership is even considered. You want to know as much about this person and their home as possible.
Do they have guns in the house? Pets? Unlocked medicine cabinets? A swimming pool in the backyard?
These are some of the many questions any parent wants answered before they leave their kids in someone else's care. The children's safety should be the number one priority of any babysitting cooperative.
Address Corporal PunishmentA lot of co-ops don't address the corporal punishment issue. You may not spank your children but the parent watching them tomorrow spanks hers.
Before anyone trades babysitting services, everyone needs to be clear on how a child who misbehaves should be handled. This policy should be in writing for every member to agree on before they can join.
No matter how you discipline your children, the easiest way to avoid conflict is to ban corporal punishment from the group. Find alternatives every member feels comfortable following, such as a time out for the child or a time out for the toy the kids were fighting over. Leave the decision to spank or not up to the children's parents, as opposed to allowing another parent to spank your kids.
Establish Participation Rules for the Babysitting CooperativeSimple rules of a babysitting co-op let each member know exactly how they should use the group. General participation rules can cover:
- A minimum amount of participation time to stay active (per month, per quarter, etc.)
- The babysitter's permission rights to transport your children in her car
- Time limits babysitters have to report their earned points or tickets before losing them
- Extra babysitting hours a coordinator will receive for performing administrative tasks
- How your tickets or points system works
- What happens when a parent who agreed to babysit now has a sick child at home
- How a member can leave the babysitting co-op
Learn CPR and First Aid TrainingHaving every member of your group pass a CPR and first aid training class will put everyone's mind at ease when they need babysitting services or they're in charge of someone else's kids. Ask about a group rate for a CPR and first aid class at your local hospital.
Split your group in half. One half goes to the class, while the other half watches the kids. Switch when it's time for the next class so the group that stayed behind can now attend a training class.
Leave the Babysitter With InstructionsThere's no such thing as too much information when it comes to leaving your children with a babysitter. Even in a co-op filled with responsible parents, emergencies still happen.
Give the babysitter your contact number and any special instructions regarding your kids. Don't forget to include allergies, other medical conditions or medicines your child has to take at a certain time if you and the group allow co-op parents to dispense medicine.
Let the babysitting parent know exactly what time you will be back. Since most co-ops charge you additional tickets or points if you're late, you have an extra incentive to pick up your child on time.
Be thorough. Give as many details as possible. Your babysitter will appreciate it too.
Deal With Trouble MembersUnfortunately, you may end up with a member who causes the group trouble. She might want everyone to babysit her children but when it's her turn, she's conveniently unavailable. You may have someone in your group who happily agrees to babysit but your children come home in tears because they think she's mean.
Members should be able to report these issues and problems need to be taken care of for the co-op's sake. Tackle the complaints individually, tally them up and be aggressive about putting a member on probation or forcing them to leave the group. One bad member can ruin an entire co-op if parents don't feel their concerns are taken seriously.
Schedule Member MeetingsMembers should attend monthly or quarterly meetings to discuss the co-op. New memberships, updated totals on babysitting credits and any other issues that have come up since the last meeting can be addressed.
The meetings are also a good time for parents to meet other parents. Kids can play together while you meet so they will feel like they're visiting friends instead of being left at a babysitter's house the next time you have errands to run.
Have everyone bring a covered dish to make your meeting an afternoon or evening out. Talk about the co-op's business but also have a good time while you're there. A well-run babysitting cooperative should be a welcome relief for parents, not added stress.