Friday, February 8, 2013

Advice from the Garden Hills Babysitting Co-op in Atlanta

The Garden Hills Babysitting Co-op in Atlanta, Georgia, has been operating since the 1970s. It consists of a group of families who live in the Garden Hills, Peachtree Park, Peachtree Hills, and Peachtree Heights neighborhoods, and we got the scoop on how they run things from Sheila Cooper, the co-op's current president.

101: What is the greatest benefit of participating in a babysitting co-op?

Sheila: Greatest benefit is the convenience of having trusted moms in your neighborhood, without having to pay.

101: What organizational challenges has your co-op overcome? How did you overcome them?

Sheila: The biggest challenge is filling sits.  I think it helps to offer your sit to be at the sitter's house.  That way the mom can get a few things done around the house, versus having to be at someone else's.  Another challenge has been some moms staying home with their children for the first year or so and not using sitters.  When this happens, children have a hard time adjusting to being away from their mom.  I say start using sitters when they're 8 weeks old, so they are accustomed to it.

101: How many families actively participate in your co-op? Has this number remained constant for some time? When you want to find more members, how do you find them?

Sheila: We currently have about 20 families, has been as high as 30.  We've been around since the 1970's, so I think it's safe to say our system "works"!  We advertise on the neighborhood websites.

101: Does participating in a babysitting co-op strengthen your sense of community?

Sheila: It does strengthen your community because it's a great way to get to know other families.

101: How do your children feel about the babysitting co-op?

Sheila: My child is only 1, but loves playing with other children of all ages, so I think he really likes it.

101: What advice would you give to parents who are just starting a babysitting co-op?

Sheila: If you are trying to start a co-op, I say keep it simple, maybe start out small.  The less work the moms have to put into it the better.  Have the coupons digital, so they don't have to count the end of the month.  Don't set up too many rules or requirements.

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