Childcare Cooperatives


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

Parent Cooperatives attract parents because they offer children high-quality, affordable early education. A parent-elected Board of Directors leads the cooperative, establishes policies and hires, and oversees qualified staff running day-to-day operations. Parents often contribute volunteer hours to the cooperative. This involvement reduces overhead costs and allows parents input and intimate knowledge regarding their child’s out-of-home experiences and opportunities to interact with other parents.

Preschool cooperatives sometimes called Parent Participation Nursery Schools (PPNS), date to 1916. At the University of Chicago, a group of mothers organized a cooperative program to provide social and educational experiences for their young children and 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, and parent involvement contributes to the program’s quality and 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 daycare, staff provide a more substantial portion of the care provided, and reduce parent participation requirements significantly.

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

Employer-Assisted Cooperative Childcare

The cooperative can be a valuable 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 providing in-kind assistance like utilities, using buildings and outdoor space, duplicating, secretarial, and other goods or services.

In a childcare 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 primarily comprises 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 babysitting 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 babysitting services.