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How To Barter For Child Care

This article was written by a former writer for BarterNews, James Stout.

We can barter for many things which are needed by parents. One barter club has these listings under its "child care" heading: sitting (day, night, overnight, or weekend), adoption consultant, behavior consultant, development consultant, foster care, legal rights, clothing exchange, storytelling, party planning, physical therapy, mother's helper for newborn -- and classes for kids in crocheting, knitting, sewing, and other arts and crafts. Of course, if we do not belong to a barter club, we can barter for these goods and services in one-to-one deals with other people.

We can exchange babysitting services. Every parent has bartered babysitting with friends who have little ones. But sometimes the friends are busy or out-of-town. The solution can be to join a babysitting co-op, or to start our own. The co-op is like a barter club; we are trading services instead of spending money.

We can start our own babysitting co-op. To publicize the group, put some notices onto bulletin boards, and use the publicity methods which are presented in the chapters regarding "meeting barterers" and "starting a barter organization."

  1. The directory. The directory can include information about the other members: their phone number, address, availability (e.g., "We work at night, but we can babysit during the daytime, except on weekends"), any special child-care skills (e.g., "licensed practical nurse") -- and their children (age, gender, etc.).
  2. The bookkeeping.
    • In our co-op, we can create our own units of exchange. Each "unit" can equal one hour of babysitting.
    • The group can have a secretary, to keep a record of these units.
    • We can design our own "money," and print it on paper in various denominations -- 1 hour, 5 hours, etc.
    • We can create a policy for people who quit the group. If they have received more hours than they have given, perhaps they can make up the difference by contributing money to the group, to help to pay for the operating expenses


    • We might allow the members to use the "units" for purposes other than babysitting. If we decide that one unit equals one hour of babysitting (which equals $3), we might want to spent 10 units to buy a member's bicycle, for example. We have expanded the concept of the babysitting co-op into that of a barter club; now the units can be used to purchase any goods and services within the group. This practice might be desirable, because we will be able to get babysitting even if we would rather give something else in exchange; and, vice versa, we can offer our babysitting to get something which we need more than we need a babysitter.
  3. Guidelines. The members can devise some guidelines which cover these issues:
    • New members' qualifications, references, and screening. We can do a background check (including, perhaps, an inspection of the people's police record). To learn more about prospective members, we can have a personal interview with them, and we can interact with them at a meeting of the co-op members.
    • Extra credit for babysitting on weekends, or during mealtimes, or at late hours, or overnight.
    • Limits on deficit spending, so that the members do not receive more than they give.
    • Complaints. We need a policy for dealing with complaints regarding:
      • Treatment of children while they are at another person's home.
      • Children's behavior.
      • Violation of other rules.
      • Serious infractions which require police involvement.
    • Responsibilities of the babysitters. These responsibilities can include:
      • Knowing the fundamentals of child care. If we have children of our own, we have probably had experience with most situations which might occur while babysitting.
      • Notifying the parents as soon as possible if we have to cancel our agreement to babysit on a particular night.
    • Responsibilities of the parents. These responsibilities can include:
      • Giving miscellaneous information about the child: his or her habits, quirks, bedtime, etc.
      • Telling the sitter about the child's problems: medical, emotional, disciplinary, etc. A child who is very sick should probably not be left with a sitter.
      • Telling the sitter where to contact us. We can also offer the phone number of our doctor, and other services (e.g., fire department, police department).
      • Returning to pick up our kids at the time when we said that we would return.
      • Providing for the child's material needs: food, diapers, etc.

Calling the sitter at least 24 hours in advance.