A child care co-op is an increasingly popular option for budget-conscious parents with a large circle of friends.
In a co-op, parents take turns watching each other's children. One parent might watch another parent's child on, for instance, Mondays or two half-days, while another might watch the first parent's children on a weekend evening or perhaps on Thursdays. In some groups, parents take turns watching everyone else's children as a group, while in others they watch one family's children at a time. This keeps the cost of child care down and keeps kids in the hands of caregivers parents trust.
If you think you'd like to start a child care co-op, consider these factors:
- Can your and the other parents agree on a philosophy and goals? Will there be a certain number of organized activities?
- Is everyone in the group punctual and reliable?
- What would your behavior policies be? How can parents discipline other people's children?
- What will the children be fed? What will their eating schedule be?
- How will the group manage when one parent is away for vacation or an emergency?
- How often will the parents meet to discuss the future of the group?
Once your group is started, make sure each parent is doing the same amount of work. When another parent is in charge of the kids, back off.
A co-op is an affordable and increasingly popular way to provide care for your child. If you're interested in starting one, find a group of people you trust, and work to create stringent guidelines to which you can all adhere.
Tiffany Smith is the senior associate editor here at Care.com. She has written for All You, Time for Kids and the Boston Globe. And as a former babysitter, she knows a lot about fun games to play with kids. Getting them to eat their veggies -- that’s a different story! Follow her on Twitter at @tiffanyiswrite.