Parent Power and Childcare Cooperatives can work in Alaska

by John E. Welsh

As government services shrink, along with budgets, we Alaskans find ways to take up the slack. We even discover ways to do things better than the government, taking control into our own hands. One way of doing this can be called “Parent Power.”

Parent Power was invented in New Mexico and Hawaii, under other names, as a plan by which parents needing time together and in some cases parenting classes, took turns in an organized setting, providing organized child care.

In Alaska, we see children’s services stretched to extremes. We also see parents trapped at home by their parenting duties, unable to get the education and training they need to overcome the economic obstacles that isolate them from success and self-realization.

The government steps in only after things have gone sour.

Parent Power has yet to be established in Alaska. Parent Power can provide the time needed for young parents as they seek self improvement and better conditions for their families. By taking turns providing quality child care in an organized setting, Parent Power parents can prevent family problems that the government used to aggravate by breaking up troubled families.

Community organizers got programs of this kind started in other states. That will happen in Alaska. However, this effective and low cost idea can take hold by parents talking to their neighbors. When groups of parents start asking for places to meet and for some tips about organizing child care cooperatives, educators and other community organizers will know how to help out.

I’ve been checking the legality of Child-care Cooperatives. Even California finds them legal. Alaska certainly will give a green light to parent-powered child care, a definite low cost way to free house-bound parents for education, training and employment. Here is the California law:

CHILDCARE COOPERATIVES AND CHILDCARE LICENSING LAWS

Generally, childcare centers are required to obtain licenses from the state where they are operating. However, in California, and likely in other states, there are laws allowing groups to care for their children through a cooperative arrangement, without getting a family child care home license. In California, the cooperative arrangement cannot involve payment and it has to meet all of the following conditions:

(A) Parents must combine their efforts so that each parent, or set of parents, rotates as the responsible caregiver with respect to all the children in the cooperative.

(B) Any person caring for the children must be a parent, legal guardian, stepparent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, or adult sibling of at least one of the children in the cooperative.

(C) There can be no payment of money or receipt of in-kind income in exchange for care. This does not prohibit in-kind contributions of snacks, games, toys, blankets for napping, pillows, and other materials parents deem appropriate for their children. This does not prohibit payment for outside activities, like park admission fees, but the amount of that payment may not exceed the actual cost of the activity.

(D) No more than 12 children can receive care in the same place at the same time.

I really hope that Parent Power will find leaders among parents and will spread through Bethel and the villages.

John E. Welsh is looking forward to helping as a volunteer/community organizer/educator available for people to use as a resource. He works as a GED teacher and Village Instructional Coordinator at Yuut Elitnaurviat in Bethel.

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