KINGFIELD – Kingfield parents are coming together to create a child care co-op, something that began more than 20 years ago, but died off in 2008 due to lack of interest.
The idea is to create a system in which parents work together to care for their neighbor’s children, with coupons or some other system in place to track hours of care provided and received.
Interested parents met in March to begin talking about the idea, a meeting that drew roughly 20 families. Several decisions still have to be made, including the geographic and age limits, but organizers say they hope to get those details settled by April so parents can begin sharing services soon. For now, the group is open to anyone in Kingfield.
Jess Alexander, who is helping get the group started, said he hopes neighbors will use the co-op not just to trade free childcare, but to meet their neighbors and build community.
“It’s not just about filling that need to have someone to take care of your kids, but developing relationships with other kids and adults who live in the neighborhood,” he said.
Alexander moved to Minneapolis a year ago, and his mother-in-law typically watches his 5-year-old son and 3-year-old daughter when needed.
Sara Strzok, who was part of the co-op before it disbanded, said the system worked well while it was in place, but that it phased out as the community got more fragmented.
The Internet actually accelerated the decline, as e-mail replaced the kind of personal connections to keep such a group vibrant, she said. In its new incarnation, organizers hope to maintain more interpersonal connections.
Strzok said the co-op was most beneficial to parents who needed help during the day, when baby-sitters were unavailable and parents simply wanted a chance to run errands. New residents like Alexander also benefited, she said.
“There are limits to what the 14-year-old neighbor can do,” she said. “And this is just another way to get to know other people in the neighborhood and build a trusting relationship.”
New members are also excited at the prospect of getting to interact with children who are either younger or older than their own – something that could provide a lesson in what’s to come, or a dose of nostalgia for what once was.
“You miss every age that your kids live through,” said Hetal Dalal, whose daughters are 8- and 9-years-old. “Especially when they’re infants and they have that new baby smell and those little toes.”
Dalal said she is also excited by the co-op idea because it will allow her to ask for help in the evenings or on the weekends, when she wants to go out but struggles with the cumulative cost.
“Once you add a babysitter on top of dinner and a move, it gets to be an expensive evening,” she said. “And there are a lot of movies that I want to see.”
Anyone interested in learning more about the co-op is invited to e-mail Alexander at [email protected].