What is Community Parenting?

Niki Foster
Niki Foster

Community parenting can be broadly defined as any situation in which a child has caregivers in addition to his or her biological or adoptive parents. These caregivers may be family members like grandparents, aunts and uncles, or older brothers and sisters. They may also be close family friends, or other parents in the community who help each other with their children.

When grandparents help to care for a child, it may be considered community parenting.
When grandparents help to care for a child, it may be considered community parenting.

Non-traditional families, that is, families that do not consist of only a biological mother and father and their children, are becoming increasingly common throughout the world. There are many single parents, blended families, adopted children, and other non-traditional family situations. Parenting is a full-time responsibility, and not everyone can do it on their own. Community parenting, in which more than two caregivers take responsibility for a child, can help provide a child with additional support growing up, and can create strong bonds between adults.

In community parenting, the child has caregivers other than his or her parents.
In community parenting, the child has caregivers other than his or her parents.

In one form of community parenting, parents and children may spend time together as a group, while each parent takes his or her turn watching the children as they play. Community parenting of this sort requires great trust between the parents, but it helps form a strong community bond between both the parents and the children. Parents benefit from such situations because the community offers extra safety and support for their child.

Community parenting may be ideal for people who are single parents.
Community parenting may be ideal for people who are single parents.

While community parenting offers many significant benefits to the child, the family, and the community as a whole, it can also be controversial. It is important for parents, and others designated as primary caregivers for a child, to take responsibility for his or her upbringing. While the entire community can be involved in raising a child, one should not leave his or her child's welfare completely up to others, especially when they have their own children to care for. Community parenting can therefore be a delicate balance, with parents and other adults helping each other, but taking care to carry their fair share of responsibilities.

Children might be able to learn different skills through community parenting.
Children might be able to learn different skills through community parenting.

Community parenting is also controversial as far as the status of non-parental caregivers goes. A person can take on great responsibility in a child's upbringing, acting as a parent for all intents and purposes, but may not have any legal rights regarding the child. If something happens to the child's legally recognized primary caregiver, a person who has been helping out with parenting responsibilities will not necessarily be able to gain custody over the child without a lengthy legal battle, or at all.

Community parenting can help children get access to proper nutrition.
Community parenting can help children get access to proper nutrition.
Community parenting may help disadvantaged children.
Community parenting may help disadvantaged children.
Niki Foster
Niki Foster

In addition to her role as a wiseGEEK editor, Niki enjoys educating herself about interesting and unusual topics in order to get ideas for her own articles. She is a graduate of UCLA, where she majored in Linguistics and Anthropology.

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Discussion Comments


@geekish - I have seen foster parenting and adoptive parenting occur with many children with disabilities. Some people just have a knack for working with these children, so the children have a great time, and just as you said the foster parents enjoy their time as well.

But as you mentioned there can be quite a sacrifice of time and freedom with children with profound disabilities. So from what I have seen these families whether they have adopted, fostered, and these children are naturally a part of the family; come together and connect their families to work like a community parenting setup.

These families will do fundraisers together, they will ask each other for babysitting services, and they figure out how to navigate disability services together.

So in this sense community parenting is a little different from the community parenting we read about here but still beneficial for this particular community.

Another tip I have received from the families I work with are to find an online parenting community. If you find the right group you can get great parenting tips for whatever child or childcare set up you have.


I have found this type of community parenting to work well with children at my school. The school I work for is a public separate school. The children who go there are profoundly physically and mentally disabled.

Because these children can require an extraordinary amount of care, many times the community steps in and helps or a parent may move in with the grandparents to receive help.

Part of the reason I think community parenting in this case works is that these children get to have more interactions outside of their nuclear family than they would otherwise.

It is also a blessing for the community that works with these children as well, because although it can be labor intensive, it is a very rewarding time to take care of these unique children.

I have learned a little about how there is also a foster parent community within the community of children with disabilities; but haven't wanted to pry and ask any of families how they make foster parenting these children work.


I used to live in a neighbourhood with many children, but most of the parents either worked or did not do much to supervise their kids. I know my mother wished there was more community parenting, at least in the form of communicating with other parents about who was where, and when, and how long they would be there.

She often would tell a neighbor about something that his or her child had done, to me or my brother or even our property, and get a complete non-response. I wish people felt more responsibility for their kids, including how they communicated and spent time with the other kids their age in the area.


I understand that some parents want the best of two worlds. They want to have the opportunity to raise children, but at the same time they want to fulfill their personal dreams of a career.

For those families where both parents must work to provide the essentials, just try to find the very best care-givers that you can.

In my opinion, I think one parent should stay home for the first four-five years of a child's life. To be a good parent the first five years takes a lot of time and patience, and with two parents working, it's very difficult.

To work during the first five years of a child's life so the family can afford big houses, cars, vacations and abundant toys, is not a good thing.

I would like to see more part-time jobs available. It would be a good compromise.


I generally feel that if at all possible, one parent should be home with the young kids. My daughter has a half-time job and that works out well.

But I think that there is one situation in our country where parents, or often single mothers need help. Single mothers, and parents in low-income areas, must work even when their children are very young.They can't afford good care-givers.

The headstart program has served them well for many years. But the children must be four years old. Research is showing that strong bonding, stimulation, and touch are super important for the future well-being of a child.

It has been suggested that children of some low-income parents, become a part of a government headstart program. So many of these children who aren't nurtured and bonded, fail in school, jobs,and social relations.

Many end up in prison. People in favor of this proposal say that the cost of a program like this would be less than funding our prisons for these children.


@Latte31 - That is sad, but you are right, it is an extreme example. A lot of parents need to work to pay their bills and this is the only way that they can do it. Some people don’t have the luxury of choosing to stay home or not and it is a blessing when a neighbor can help out.

I also think that it can be risky to only have one parent working because what happens if that working parent loses their job? I think that having both parents out of a job is really scary, so I could definitely understand the need to continue working especially when you consider children’s college costs are astronomical and if you keep your job by the time your child goes to college you should be earning more money.

I know that it some parents may not want to trust their neighbors to care for their children, but many feel that this is their only viable option.


@Icecream17 -I agree with you. I don’t like to leave my children with a neighbor or a family member because I also want to be self sufficient. I enjoy being with my children and I also stay home to care for them. I have gone to school functions and it is sad when a nanny has to step in for the parents.

I also know that teacher communication with parents is easier when you stay at home because you are very accessible to the teacher which is another benefit.

I remember when my father was alive, he told me about his sad childhood. He mentioned that the was sent off to military school here in the United States even though his family lived in Cuba and in the summers he would go to camp in North Carolina the entire time.

He was never home and essentially the teachers and camp counselors raised him. I realize that this is an extreme example of community parenting but nonetheless my father felt rejected by his parents because he felt that they did not want him around.

My father was in his eighties when he told me this story and tears still filled his eyes because he never got over the lack of parental involvement that his parent’s shared in his development. I think that children pick up on our actions not on our words.


@Anamur-I am glad that community parenting worked so well for you. I have to say that I think that this form of parenting solution can also backfire because the children might also feel neglected by their parents because they are not around.

This can even happen to children that have a full time nanny. I have seen a lot of cases at my children’s school in which these nannies almost take the place of the parents because the parents have very high powered careers and neither parent wants to give that up to stay with the child.

Many of these people could afford to stay home but choose not to and have someone else raise their child. I understand the parent that has to work because they need to money in order to raise their child as many families do, but I don’t understand the wealthy parents that won’t give up a career in order to raise their children.

I was raised in a community parenting style because both of my parents had to work, but now as a parent of two children, I chose to stay home and raise them because I was lucky that I could afford to do it.

I think that community parenting can work, but the parents have to make sure they don’t abuse this privilege otherwise it will send the wrong message to the child. The child will assume that they are a burden and it will probably affect them the rest of their lives.

I think that having children is a choice that parents make and parents are ultimately responsible for their children's upbringing.


I don't think that community parenting is just about helping physically with the care of a child. I think it's more about advice and tips. People who have already raised children and have experienced the different phases and difficulties with them have really valuable advice for new moms and dads that are now going through these phases.

I ask my parents, aunts, uncles and friends for advice with lots of things from the kind of music I should allow my teenage daughter to listen to, to how to deal with an overactive toddler.

My community is helping me with parenting but they are not feeding my kids and doing their laundry. They are helping me by listening to my difficulties as a parent and giving me advice on how I should parent them. I need that advice more than any physical assistance.


@anamur-- It's really nice to hear that there are people who help out with raising kids, because it's really not an easy job, especially when there is no father.

I personally do not prefer to do that though. I have nothing to say if someone's job is at risk and they have to work or they can't eat. But if you are not in that situation, I don't think it's right to leave kids with other people.

I think children are very sensitive and they need their parents with them at that age. I think it would be psychologically damaging to leave kids with neighbors or even distant relatives. Maybe I would leave my kids with my mom or sister for a couple of hours, but definitely not the whole day and every day.

I also wouldn't want my kids to feel that close to other people. I don't want to be a stranger to my kids and have them feel closest to someone else.


I think that in this era, community parenting is even more important than before. Most women are also working these days, they want to work or need to work for extra income and cannot stay home to care for the children. Nurseries and baby sitters are also very expensive and not everyone can afford to pay for that. Community parenting is the best way to raise children under these circumstances.

My mom also raised me and my brother this way. Both of my parents worked full time and my mom worked at a hospital and had a very tough and stressful job. My grandmother and our neighbors helped take care of us while she was at work. When my grandmother could come and stay, she cared for us. When she couldn't, my mom would leave us to our neighbor who took care of us along with her other kids until my mom returned from work.

We still go to see those neighbors today and we are all grateful to them for keeping an eye on us and caring for us when my mom had to work. My mom couldn't possibly have done it without them. She would have had to leave her job and in that case, she wouldn't have the retirement salary she has now.

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