AdaCamp was a two-day unconference dedicated to increasing women’s participation in open technology and culture. This page is part of the AdaCamp Toolkit, which helps you take AdaCamp’s tools and practices and apply them to your own event. You can re-use the text of this page under the Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike license with credit to the AdaCamp Toolkit.
Providing conference childcare allows parents and guardians to attend your event and more fully participate than they would be able to if they had to primarily care for a child. It may be the only thing that makes attending your event possible for some parents and guardians.
Child care requests
You will need to know your childcare needs around about the time you finalise your venue booking; around six weeks before the event. You should set deadlines to apply for and register for childcare appropriately.
You should collect the following information about all children attending childcare:
- name (including preferred name)
- age in months or years
- personality and interests: hobbies, likes, dislikes, fears
- languages spoken by the child (if any)
- sleep times if any, and sleep routine
- dietary preferences and restrictions
- medical conditions
- contact details for the parent or guardian who will be at your event
- name and contact details of another adult to contact in an emergency
Check in systems
Prepare a sign in and out sheet for each child for all days of your event. Ask the care providers to sign children in at the beginning of the day, and to record all sign outs (eg for meals or nursing sessions), including the name of the adult the child left with.
For the safety of children attending, it is normal have a policy that only the adult who checked the child in in the morning, or their listed emergency contact, may check them out.
Child care resources
Your event’s childcare will need a dedicated space. If the children involved are over about 12 months of age, it should also be relatively large — childcare centres often aim for more than 25 square feet / 2.5 square metres per child for indoor space.
You will need to separate sleeping children from other children. For an AdaCamp-sized event (2–5 children) a dedicated nap room is best so that the children can all interact when they’re awake. For a much larger event it may work better to have separate rooms for different age groups.
Find out in advance if there are nearby parks, libraries or playgrounds that the children and carers could go to.
Include both the children and the carers in your catering numbers. Communicate to the carers that they are welcome to the catered food; as they may not expect to be catered to. Have your childcare liaison discuss break-time plans with them.
Your care provider may be able to supply furniture, otherwise you will need to rent or buy these at the minimum:
- portable cribs for all children under 24 months of age
- sleeping mats or very low beds for children between 24 and 36 months of age
- a table for food to be served on
- bouncy chairs or similar for all children under 6 months of age
- chairs or high chairs for all children 6 months of age and over
Your care provider may be able to bring toys, if not you will want to rent or buy a number of age appropriate toys, perhaps 2–3 per child attending.
Information for carers and for parents/guardians
Provide each childcare room with:
- a phone, either fixed line or with a charger
- an up to date CPR instructions sign
- a well stocked first aid kit
- a list of emergency contacts (ambulance and emergency services, poisons information)
- a list of venue contacts (organizing team’s childcare liaison, venue liaison, building security)
- the information about each child you collected when you registered them
Provide the attending parent or guardian with:
- emergency contacts (ambulance and emergency services, poisons information)
- the name of the carer(s) assigned to their child together with a brief summary of their qualifications
- phone numbers for the carers or the room
- contact details for the organizing team’s childcare liaison
- a list of anything they will need to bring with their child (e.g., food, bottles or cups, milk, diapers, warm outer clothes, toys, change of underwear…)
Hiring child care providers
Before reaching out to childcare providers, assemble basic information about your needs:
- how many children do you need care for?
- how old are the children?
- do any of the children have high care needs? do any of the needs require experience or special training in the carers?
How many carers do you need?
Many agencies will insist on providing at least two carers (and if you have children across multiple rooms, two carers per room) for the safety of the children and carers. You may also need to check whether local regulations about carer ratios apply to short term event childcare.
- For children under 2, consider having one carer per child, and certainly at least one carer for every two children.
- For children between 2 and 5, consider having one carer per two or three children and at least one carer for every four children.
- For children over 5, one carer to every five children is about right.
Children who have higher care needs will change those ratios.
Types of care
Consider the following child care providers, in rough order of preference:
- your venue’s recommended carers
- agencies that work with hotels (they will be used to working with visiting children and out of small spaces)
- agencies that provide general short-term childcare
- child care centres
- individuals who advertise childcare services
Child care centres are usually not ideal because they are concentrated in residential and business rather than tourist districts, are designed for longer term enrolments, often only have places for a few casual enrollees and usually aren’t open on weekends or during popular holiday times. Centres in very popular tourist destinations may have more experience with short term care requests.
Finding care providers
Consider the following avenues:
- ask local hotels if they have a recommended agency or carer
- ask your venue and other local convention venues if they have a recommended agency or carer
- web searches for “CITY nanny agency” “CITY babysitting agency” “CITY event childcare”
- ask your attendees for recommendations
- search large central databases of carers (eg care.com in the United States), however note that this will typically net individual carers rather than agencies
For all carers, you should ask them or their agency for this information:
- whether they have a history of or a criminal conviction for harming children
- whether they hold the local police/public safety check for working with children
- whether they have first aid training including a current CPR certification
- whether they have any formal qualifications in education or child care
- the extent of their experience in child care (including in the specific age ranges of the children at your event)
- references from previous clients
Limitations of childcare
Many attendees of AdaCamp chose to use family or friends as carers rather than using our free childcare. There are several reasons for this:
- Traveling with children is very tiring; providing conference childcare cannot help attendees get to your event with their children in the first place.
- Conference childcare is stressful for children: a strange place, a strange carer and their parent or guardian nearby but refusing to be with them or stay with them for reasons they may not understand.
- The childcare is likely to be boring for children who want to run around outside or who have specific interests that the carers and venue can’t cater to.
- Some attendees do not feel secure leaving their children with unknown carers.
You could make your event more friendly for parents and guardians who can’t or don’t want to use your childcare by:
- including information for parents and guardians about child-friendly transport and accommodation in your event materials
- allowing babies or children to attend the event with their parent or guardians
- providing a nursing room to accommodate nursing babies staying with their parent
- catering for children and their outside carers to visit during meal breaks
- holding a centrally located event so that a child and their outside carer have access to things to do and can visit their parent or guardian during the day or meet them for the evening
If you’re providing these things, let attendees know well in advance so that they can plan for them when arranging their travel and accommodation!
- Geek Feminism wiki, Breastfeeding and infant care support
- Geek Feminism wiki, Childcare
- Feminist Philosophers, Childcare at conferences post series
A very partial list of other open technology and culture conferences that offer childcare includes: Grace Hopper Celebration; linux.conf.au from 2013 onwards; Open Source Bridge; PyCon in 2014 and 2015; and WisCon.