Child Care Co-ops

With women entering the American work force in ever increasing numbers, locating high quality child care has become a serious problem for many families. The pressing need for child care facilities has prompted parents, educators, employers and communities to create new structures and methods for the development of child care programs. Increasingly, parents and employers alike are finding that professionally operated child care cooperatives best meet their expanding child care needs.

Meeting a Variety of Child Care Needs Cooperatively

The cooperative structure gives parents a voice in the operation of the child care program. As co-owners of the cooperative, parents must be well-informed and actively involved in their child's care. Parental participation goes beyond policymaking and might include sharing special activities or hobbies with children at the center. Parents work closely with a professional staff to ensure that their children receive care and education of the highest quality.

The cooperative preschool movement has flourished in the United States for many years. As more and more women enter the work force, cooperatives are emerging to meet the need for infant care, before and after school care and full day care. The strength of the cooperative structure lies in its flexibility to satisfy the child care needs of both employers and parents. The child care cooperative may be structured in several ways:

Parent Model

The most common of the child care models, this type of cooperative is comprised of parents who have formed a cooperative to provide quality care for their children. As with all cooperatives, members contribute an initial membership fee towards the capitalization of the center and elect a board of directors on a one member/one vote basis. The board sets long-range policy and oversees the center's professional management.

Employee Model

Child care being essential for many parents in the work force, many employers are now including it in benefit packages and establishing child care facilities near or within their worksites. On-site child facilities have been credited with creating a more stable, satisfied and productive work force and with reducing absenteeism among workers.

By establishing on-site facilities as cooperatives, businesses may provide space, initial financing and assistance to child care programs, but are able to leave operation and ownership to the employees who use the center. The U.S. Senate and the World Bank are among numerous organizations which have established child care cooperatives owned and operated by their employees.

Consortium Model

Increasingly, businesses are acting together to offer child care services within industrial parks and commercial developments for the benefit of those employed there. Developers are offering child care facilities as a benefit to their tenants, and municipalities too, are placing a new emphasis on the availability of child care services within the workplace. The "Consortium Model" of cooperative child care where a group of employers or organizations form a child care cooperative to be owned by their combined employee groups is increasingly demonstrating its benefits to both parents and employers.

Sponsoring organizations typically provide start-up capital for the venture, donate space for the center and hire management. As always, the cooperative is governed by a board of directors selected from the membership and with the employee or consortium model representatives from participating employers.

Reprinted with permission of the National Cooperative Business Association.