Childcare Cooperatives

Childcare and preschool cooperatives can be organized in a variety of ways. Workers can form a cooperative to offer childcare or preschool services (see worker cooperative).

Parent Cooperatives

Parents are attracted to childcare and preschool cooperatives because they offer high quality, affordable early education for children. The cooperative is led by a parent-elected Board of Directors who establishes policies and hire and oversee qualified staff who run the day-to-day operations. Parents often contribute volunteer hours to the cooperative. This involvement reduces overhead costs and allows parent input and intimate knowledge regarding their child’s out-of-home experiences, as well as opportunities to interact with other parents.

Preschool cooperatives, sometimes referred to as Parent Participation Nursery Schools (PPNS), date back to 1916 when a group of mothers at the University of Chicago organized a cooperative program to provide social and educational experiences for their young children, and to gain child-free time to pursue volunteer activities. Contemporary preschool cooperatives offer similar enrichment activities for preschoolers; many offer the option of extended childcare hours for parents who are employed. The program is licensed and staffed by one or more experts in early childhood education. Parent involvement contributes to the quality of the program and also reduces operational costs.

Childcare cooperatives offer quality care for children while their parents work. Although many aspects of childcare cooperatives are identical to preschool cooperatives, they usually differ in three significant ways: they offer full day care, staff provide a larger portion of the care provided, and parent participation requirements are significantly reduced.

A growing number of preschool cooperatives are modifying or offering options to their programs to accommodate employed parents. Many offer “after preschool” childcare options, some allow nannies or grandparents to complete the parent participation requirements, or participation options that can be completed during evening or weekend time. Other programs offer members the option of reducing their parent participation requirements by paying an increased fee.

Employer-Assisted Cooperative Childcare

The cooperative can be a useful model for on or near worksite childcare. In the employee model, parents at the worksite are the members and elect the board of directors. The center operates almost identical to the parent childcare cooperative described earlier. The employer may assist the cooperative by helping with start-up expenses, contributing financially or by providing in-kind assistance like utilities, use of buildings and outdoor space, duplicating, secretarial, and/or other goods or services.

In a child-care consortium, businesses, rather than parents, are the members and they join together to provide near worksite childcare for their employees. In this model, the board is primarily composed of member-business representatives (who may also be parents). Business members share the costs and benefits associated with the program and typically charge fees to employee-parents using the center.

Babysitting Cooperatives

Babysitting cooperatives allow parents to equitably exchange baby-sitting services so they can enjoy a night out or travel on business trips. These cooperatives are less formal and involve relatively short-term arrangements. When parents take care of a child(ren) from a member family they earn points or scrip that can be “spent” when they need baby-sitting services.