A home nursery service for small groups of children under three years old.

Key Innovation
Flexible and customized day nursery service for groups of 2-3 infants under three years old at the houses of professional operators.

Problematic background and context
Developed as an industrialized area back in the 1960’s, San Donato Milanese counts with a lot of young professional people and a large number of immigrants living away from their families and their help to raise their children. While the number of children keeps increasing, the existing nurseries cannot satisfy the needs of infancy services of the community. As a matter of fact, in 1999 the Municipality realized that more than 60 families were kept out on waiting lists for the nurseries. Together with the cooperative, the Municipality developed this service, which is demonstrating its efficiency and value in terms of cost and social results for the citizens.

Solution description
The service is promoted by the Municipality of San Donato Milanese and provided by a cooperative that offers professional infancy care to small groups of 2-3 children under 3 years old. Through this service children are assigned to one operator that receive them in her own home. Operators follow the children through an individual, pedagogical and socializing process and take them also to other activities for infants organized by the Municipality. The solution offers new job opportunities – also for immigrants – and a new, flexible and personalized kind of infancy service. The parents have to bring and pick up the baby to and from the operator’s house and provide them with baby food. The operator is in charge of looking after the baby and bringing him/her to the other services organised by the Municipality in order to guarantee valuable socializing experiences.

The service has been active since September 2000

Development phase
The service is based on an existing idea that has a low diffusion. The solution promoters mentioned some similar examples they referred to while planning the service (there is a service called “Tagesmutter” in Bolzano and other nurseries at home in Vimercate, Florence, Turin, Milan, Bergamo and Mantova). It has to be mentioned though, that these references were just considered as a starting point from where a new idea of solution was developed. The service is focused on two main concepts: the idea of having a maximum of 3 children per house in order to enable the operator to bring them out at any time and the idea of a more professional and practical education of the operators. In this way, we can define this service as being a unique case.
At the beginning, the families were bound to use the service, because there were no spaces in the existing nurseries for their children. But today, even if sometimes there are places available, and even considered that this service is a little bit more expensive, some parents prefer it to the nurseries. According to a survey made on July 2004 by the Municipality and the cooperative, most of the families seem to have positive impressions about the service. As a matter of fact, families that use it for one year usually stick to it until their babies are 3 years old. In 2002, the service started being open to foreigner residents and foreigner operators were also hired. This can be considered as an important step in the service development process. Therefore, in the opinion of the organizers, operators and users, the system can now be considered as optimized.

Revenue/costs model
Operators are paid 3.30 Euros an hour per child and they put their houses at disposal of the service. The Municipality and the family share the costs of the service: 20% is paid by the family, 20% is paid by the Municipality and 60% is divided between the two of them according to the income of the family. The cooperative supplies diapers and hygienic material, mattresses, pushchairs, high chairs, and playing equipment. The family has to provide the food for the child. The initiative brings a monthly income for the cooperative wich is around 35.000 euros and is partly reinvested in the service.

Social evaluation
With this type of service parents that are not able to find places in nurseries for their children can be offered with a flexible solution. They can decide for the service according to their needs. With the help of this professional support, the children can socialized since a very early age by taking part at different services with other children. The service offers job opportunities to the operators who were unemployed before. This was important especially for some foreigner operators that sometimes had to send their babies to their relatives far away as a result of delays in getting their visa. Being hired for this service, they could take care of their own children while working for the community.

Environmental evaluation
The solution vitalise and optimise the use of existing private structure (homes) for semi-public and business activities. It allows the user to reduce the transfers from home to the nursery.

Economical evaluation
Using the operators’ houses for nursery services is less costly and also a faster solution for the Municipality compared with the costs of building new nurseries and administrating them. The service provides an income to the operators who were unemployed before. The initiative brings a monthly income for the cooperative wich is around 35.000 euros and is partly reinvested in the service.

Begum Arseven, Chiara Zappalà / Politecnico di Milano / Italy

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