In 1988, three young mothers came together to do what had not been done before in the US:  start a worker-owned child care center that would be a model of fair compensation and participative management for workers, as well as equitable access and engaging, child-centered services for the children in their care. Twenty-five years later, this unique institution employs over 40 workers, and serves 200+ families of at a variety of income levels at its two facilities in the Philadelphia area. In an industry that habitually relies on effective subsidies from its low-paid, overworked, and largely female workforce, Childspace stands out as a place where compensation is significantly above industry average, and any childcare worker with the interest and dedication can become a part-owner of the business.  

But begin a worker-owned cooperative—even an exemplary one—cannot shield Childspace from the challenges of the outside world. The recent pandemic forced the cooperative, like other child care centers around the world, to close completely for several months, and then operate at a restricted level for many more. Company leaders credit the cooperative model with helping them to survive this very difficult time when other centers around them simply closed their doors. But the experience left them financially drained.  This grueling experience was followed in 2023 by the news that their key insurance premium was to increase by over $100,000 a year, in keeping with national trends across the entire childcare industry.

Adept at organizing and advocating for their workers and the children in their care, Childspace leaders began working with state legislators to come up with a solution. But the timeline for any fix is unclear, and in the meantime, the insurance bills were coming due. In the past, Childspace had been able to rely on their own reserve funds to pay the premium when due, but the skyrocketing cost now made this impossible without another source of working capital. Fortunately, the FJWO was able to step in with a $150,000 line of credit.

Today the cooperative that has served as a model for just about every other worker-owned child care co-op in America is continuing its important work: advocating for children and families, creating respectful and stable employment for workers, and showing the world that quality jobs and quality care really can, and do, go together.

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Child Care Centers
Philadelphia, PA
25-50 People
Working Capital

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