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Montreal Childcare Collective

January 31, 2013

The Montreal Childcare Collective offers strategic childcare in response to the fact that childcare is frequently overlooked and under-appreciated. They aim to assist parents, caregivers, youth and children, including but not limited to low-income communities, non-status and immigrant communities, communities of colour, and queer and trans communities.

While living in Montreal, I had the good fortune to volunteer with this group a bit. Never as an organizing member, but lots of hanging out with kids at meetings and a bit of homecare as well. I love them to death. The idea that supporting parents and families is crucial to community development is simple but inspired. Parents are better able to attend meetings and events, kids are able to pick up the activist language a bit earlier (there’s nothing more heartwarming on earth than being put in your place by a precocious, 8-year old anarchist), activists get to practice some care and empathy and the whole movement stays better connected.

I had the opportunity to IM with noah, a longtime member of the collective.


noah: the collective started in 2006 as “kids camp” – it was pretty active for a couple years and then dormant for a bit (people left the city, not enough people/capacity, etc.). in 2009, a few of us got together and decided to try and get stuff started up again in a more active way and applied (well, reapplied) to be a qpirg-concordia working group.
in terms of my own involvement, i was doing childcare at events and stuff and the anarchist bookfair, but wasn’t part of the collective until 2009. i really like hanging out with kids and doing childcare, and have been doing it most of my life. i got involved doing childcare at events, etc. in montreal mostly by responding to callouts (sometimes ones from the childcare collective) and then when the few of us decided to try and get the collective going again, we became the i guess “core” members of the collective in that particular iteration of it.

filth: Because you believed it was important, enjoyed the “work” and had a bit of a foundation to build on?
noah: yeah, i think it’s extremely important. i think that if we’re going to talk about building community and breaking down barriers to access, there has to be ways for people to get childcare. and so, yeah, having the childcare collective already established in some ways and in some communities/circles made it more possible to try and build on what already was.

filth: I remember some of the programs being: childcare for events and meetings, kid specific programming at bigger events and trying to connect individual families with one or more people to help outside of those public spaces.
noah: yeah, those are still pretty much the main areas of focus. i would say the first two more than the last one right now, but we do make it known that we will try our best to be able to take on emergency or individual childcare stuff if we can.
there’s a couple bigger events that tend to the sort of “main” events each year and that require more planning and then there’s the smaller events that are usually organized by doing a callout to see who can bottomline a given event and who’s available to do childcare.

filth: Do you feel like people outside the collective have learned from you all about the importance of supporting parents through childcare?
noah: i think in some ways, yes. obviously this is just based on my own observations and opinion, but i do feel like it seems way more common that childcare is offered at events – sometimes this means groups who haven’t previously been in touch with the collective have gotten in touch, and other times it means groups organizing for themselves.
again, though, that’s just my take on it. i am not a parent/guardian of a child and i also am part of the childcare collective, so maybe my sense of when/where childcare is being offered is a bit skewed.

filth: If someone wanted to get involved with or support the childcare collective, what are some ways they might be able to click in?
noah: we have a blog – which isn’t updated a lot right now but we are hoping to fix that ( http://childcarecollective.blogspot.ca/ ). people sometimes get in touch because of that. other times, people come up to childcare collective folks at events and stuff and ask how they can get involved.
sometimes people get involved when we do callouts for volunteers (especially if there’s a bigger event, etc) and then become regular volunteers and/or collective members.
for folks who want to volunteer, usually when someone new gets in touch, we check in as a collective and then ask the person to volunteer for the first couple times with a collective member (or a long-time volunteer).

filth: Any tips for people in other cities that might want to start up a similar project?
noah: try and be realistic about your capacity. when we first tried to get stuff started back up we had a lot of ideas of what we wanted to do. since it’s been a pretty small collective the whole time, it’s been pretty hard to do a lot of those things. but that also because we have prioritized providing childcare at events/meetings/etc.
also, it really helps to have some toys and games that “belong” to the collective/that the collective regularly has access to. this means we don’t always have to track down toys, etc. for each time we’re doing childcare. We also keep a lot of it in a rolling suitcase for easier transport!
being as prepared as possible to answer questions from parents and guardians and meet different kinds of needs kids might have. so, for example, when we’re doing childcare at events where there are many kids, we usually have some kind of sign-in sheet with info including the kids’s names, contact info (phone # etc) for parents/guardians/people who are taking care of the kids, allergies (esp. food), languages spoken, etc.
asking questions of volunteers/folks getting involved like “are you comfortable taking care of babies?” “what languages do you speak?” etc.

filth: Getting back to what you were saying before about being realistic about your capacity.
noah: yeah. That’s always a challenge….
i mean, that’s not specific to the childcare collective.
but, yeah, it means that we have to figure out what we do and what we can’t. times there are more people actively involved, we can do more. most of the time it’s a really small collective, and we are committed to prioritizing providing childcare, so it means that right now we don’t often do things like offer workshops or put on our own events (even though we’d like to).

filth: Are there some workshops that you’re dreaming about organizing, once you have a bit more time or resources?
noah: we’ve discussed some different things over the past while. things like organizing with someone to give a first-aid workshop that’s baby/kid specific and organizing workshops that are for kids or kids & their parents/caretakers.

filth: Ok, i’ll make a mention of that in the end of the article. maybe someone will know someone. Is there anything else you’d like to add?
noah: i don’t think so? i mean, apart from the fact that i’m only one member of the collective, so i tried to do my best to generalize and give a sort of overall picture of where things are at, but i obviously can’t speak for the other folks on the collective

Ways to get involved
website help – Techy and want to help them re-build or just update the website?

host a workshop – Maybe you have some good ideas for workshops to run about hanging out with young people or fun activities to do with kids. Especially if you are qualified to teach CPR/First Aid, i think they would probably love it if you wanted to volunteer to teach some of their volunteers

volunteer – Want to hang out with kids? Drop them an email at childcarecollective [at] riseup [dot] net

need emergency childcare? – If you or someone you know is living in Montreal and needs either emergency or ongoing support, please get in touch with them. They will let you know if they can connect you with someone.

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