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In defence of 'unlicensed' childcare

Blog posts reflect the views of their authors.
My partner taking care of my baby and a friend’s baby. We met through an informal childcare co-op that is unregistered but provides really high quality care. Plus the babies get to grow up together and have other adults in their lives.
My partner taking care of my baby and a friend’s baby. We met through an informal childcare co-op that is unregistered but provides really high quality care. Plus the babies get to grow up together and have other adults in their lives.

Building our own childcare and respecting the paid and unpaid work being done in the community, both by certified professionals and people who have learned from a more informal track, can be the seeds we need to grow a real childcare system in this country. Many people who no college have far more childcare skills than you can learn in school. Saying that only a college diploma gives you the skills to take care of kids is undervaluing work most often done by women and the skills that many women have obtained in their lives. Supporting only Early Childhood Educator (ECE) certified workers is driving people into the arms of education industrial complex. 

Let’s also not look at stay-at-home moms (and other parents) as anti-feminist but as people who are doing their own unalienated childcare- and let’s not pretend that low wage women workers will be liberated by having the bare minimum childcare to work some shitty minimum wage job. I love my baby and sometimes it almost physically hurts to be away from her. I am sure not more 'liberated' by being separated from her so I can work a horrible and non-fulfilling job for horrible pay. And if I stay home with her why am I almost compelled to be home alone with the possibility of no other adult contact or an adult social life or a conversation with someone I have more in common with than the simple fact of motherhood?

As a low wage worker I can never afford childcare anyway and either myself or my partner has to not work. I can never pay someone else a decent wage out of my wage which is already indecent. Why does no one talk about this contradiction? Why do I hear radical anarchists saying that for an event we can only hire childcare workers who have their Early Childhood Education diploma (and by extension, police background check)? And also we have to pay them more than the hourly wage of anyone attending the event? How could this possibly be sustainable if people with kids want to attend more than the occasional meeting? How are anarchists in love with police checks and certification all of a sudden?

Should someone qualified as a nurse in the Philippines have to go back to school in Canada to get an ECE certificate in order to take care of a child? What about someone who has raised 5 kids and spent their entire adult life working as a childcare provider? 

When people chant at a rally "Quality Childcare Now!", like at the last International Women's Day rally, I can't join in. What we are saying is "registered childcare". What we are saying is we want an attack on tiny survival businesses run by women (many who have their own kids and can't work other jobs), and that you can't have quality without government regulation and college diplomas and police checks. Unlicensed childcare is many times the closest thing we have to affordable childcare. Decreasing the supply of childcare causes parents to be truly desperate and that is what causes some of the horrific childcare conditions that have been revealed recently: desperation.

Québec didn't get childcare just by chanting "Quality Childcare Now!" in the streets. They got childcare by setting it up themselves, in occupied buildings, in church basements, and by ordinary people (including men) taking care of children because there was a need in the community. Then demanding funding. This is how they actually got childcare in Québec, by building it from the ground up.

One of the best and most concrete political actions I've ever taken is the year I spent with Little Lemurs Childcare collective. Yes, we went to meetings and wrangled about structure like other groups I've been in: but these meetings led to children being cared for every day, while their parents went to work or school or community organizing. They were cared for by people who loved them and I still have an ongoing relationship with the parents and kids in the collective. There was a low ratio of kids to caregivers, a ton of enrichment activities and super healthy food. And best of all, this was unalienated work, we were caring for our and our friends’ kids-- not just so we could go to a meeting but to support us in our lives. This can be what unlicensed childcare looks like. And many people across the country are doing similar things with their friends, families and neighbours to build relationships of trust and care.

Cracking down on unlicensed childcare will only drive it underground. There is such a huge need and this is not going to help with safety issues. We need to respect childcare workers both paid and unpaid, both registered and unregistered. We need to demand funding from the government and workplaces and the community at large to fund childcare. Let’s stop slagging grandparents, aunts, neighbours and mothers who care for children that are not biologically their own. Let’s stop slagging caregivers and propping up huge corporations that see children only as a form of income generation. Let’s see childcare as a collective responsibility and something that is done by most people in society to some degree; not something that's left only to 'experts' certified in school. We can do this while also respecting expertise gained in taking care of kids, be it through school, informal childcare experience or formal experience.


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Megan Kinch (Megan Kinch)
Toronto Ontario
Member since December 2009

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is a writer and editor with the Toronto Media Co-op.

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