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Shared family-to-family care is like merging isolated family units into a larger pod of families. A typical "babysitting co-op" may have dozens of members, but to preserve protective distancing during COVID-19, it is recommended that you take a measured, slow approach to expanding your pod. Many families can meet their care needs by teaming up with just one to three other families.
Please review these best practices for your care circle.
How does shared care work?
Families babysit each other’s kids. Usually those families also have kids, so to the kids it feels just like a playdate. But, your care circle can include any of your trusted friends and family.
Because you’re trading time, it’s free. Many circles make sure it’s fair by trading “points.” When you babysit for someone, they give you points. When someone sits for you, you give them points. Usually, a point is an hour, but a pod can set their own rules.
What do you need?
You need somewhere to talk about your pod’s needs to make sure everyone is covered. You can use an app purpose-built for babysitting co-ops, a social networking app, a simple spreadsheet, or just a group chat. If you’re tracking points, co-ops apps or spreadsheets make that easy.
How do I find a family to team up with?
Many families start with a family they already know, from school, work, or next door. Ask if they would like to take turns babysitting with you. To meet someone new, you can use a co-op app or your favorite social network. To be matched with a COVID-19 volunteer, reach out to Covid Childcare CA here.
Ask questions about what care will look like:
When do you need care? Is your schedule regular or flexible?
When are you able to provide care? How early, how late, and for how long?
Do you prefer your house or ours? Who will be the primary caregiver, and who are the other adults in your home?
Do your children have any special considerations or rules?
During COVID-19, it is extremely important that you discuss each family’s situation openly for the safety of you and them. Consider questions like:
Are you practicing protective distancing?
Have you been self-isolating? For how long? How long will you continue?
What are your practices for leaving the home? Is there anyone else you interact with in-person outside your household?
Is anyone in your household working outside the home? Do they have increased exposure risk because of their job?
Is anyone in your household showing symptoms suggestive of COVID-19, now or previously? Has anyone had known exposure to coronavirus?
Is anyone in your household at high-risk?
During COVID-19, choose as few families for your pod as meet everyone’s care needs. (After, of course, the more trusted friends the merrier!)
Is there anything special for healthcare and essential service workers?
Shared care circles can be an excellent solution for essential workers. If you are able, choose your pod from your co-workers. In this way, you limit exposure to and from the community at large.
The caregivers can be your actual co-workers, or they can be spouses, partners, adult children, or other age-appropriate and agreed-upon caregivers in the household.
You can create a group yourself, or your employer can support you by creating a group of volunteer families to build your pod from.
Is there anything else I should do?
Follow CDC guidelines for keeping homes safe.
If any member of a household is sick or has a fever, do not exchange care. Notify the pod. The CDC recommends that people should self-quarantine for 14 days if you have been in contact in the last 14 days with someone diagnosed with COVID-19.
Here are some tips and tricks to getting the most out of your care circle.
Try “digital swaps.” Another adult reading a story or playing with silly filters over video can entertain a kid for short periods of time. Schedule half an hour for yourself with your care circle. (Note you are still on point for safety, so stay close.)
Try “digital playdates.” Plan a webcam playdate for your kid with their friends. (Again, you’re on point for safety, but this is another opportunity for a breather.)
If you would normally take public transportation to bring your child to the caregiver, or for the caregiver to come to you, consider hiring a made-for-kids rideshare. Learn more about those here.
At drop-off and pick-up, do it at a distance. Resist the temptation to linger with your friends, and (if age-appropriate) just let the kiddos cross the threshold into the other home on their own.