Childcare Cooperatives

Resources on Childcare Cooperatives

Childcare cooperatives take shape on a spectrum from casual babysitting exchanges all the way to highly organized preschools with hundreds of participating families. Below are some books, articles, and sample agreements for parents seeking to form a childcare cooperative.


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.

(From California Health & Safety Code § 1596.792(e); DSS Manual § 102358.)

Please note that if you have an organized child care group that doesn’t meet the criteria above, you might be required to obtain a license from the state. For more information about licensing requirements, you may find the organization Bananas to be helpful:

Bite-Sized Legal Guide: How To Run a Co-Op Child Care Arrangement

In this Bite-Sized Legal Guide, we explore how to run a cooperative child care arrangement in California. Check out all of the Law Center’s Bite-Sized Legal Guides on our website, 


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