“We kind of look at it as teambuilding, family-style.”

That's how Garen Gouveia, president, Corporate Kids Events, Monterey, Calif., describes his company's child-care service for meetings. “A lot of people are putting in 60- to 80-hour workweeks,” he says. “We think it's important to give them extra time to be with their families.”

The service benefits families as well as the companies that use it, he says. “It enables people to see their coworkers in a different way — to meet their spouses and their children, and to get a whole different perspective. Hopefully they take that back to the workplace and it makes for a more productive work force.”

If the trajectory of Gouveia's business is any indication, meetings that encourage attendees to bring their families are growing in popularity. In 2005, Corporate Kids Events worked 150 events, up 20 percent from the previous year. This year, he projects a similar increase.

The San Francisco — based law firm of Townsend and Townsend and Crew LLP is one of those clients. For the past three years, it has used Corporate Kids Events for its annual retreat. Maria Lovi, professional recruitment coordinator at the firm, says the extra expense is worth it. “It's really important to the attorneys to have this time with their families and for their families to meet other families,” she says. “It's a real teambuilding-type event.”

Including families is critical to the culture of the retreat. “We try to combine both business and a little bit of pleasure for the families,” Lovi explains. “Once word got out that child care was one of the best parts about of the retreat, the numbers have progressively increased.” About 300 people attended last year's retreat at Silverado Resort, Napa, Calif., including about 70 kids. Outside of meetings, all attendees, including spouses and kids, took part in a Saturday afternoon barbecue. On Friday and Saturday evenings, the adults attended dinners while Gouveia's company took care of the children.

All Kinds of Fun

Typically, child-care companies separate children by age, with infants age 2 and under receiving one-on-one attention. Staff-to-child ratios gradually go up for older kids, and the activities vary for each age group: infant/toddler, preschool, 6- to 10-year-olds, 'tweens (11-13), and teenagers. Activities are often built around a theme that is based on the location of the meeting. If it's in Hawaii, it might be a luau theme; if it's Dallas, it might be a Western theme. Usually the kids stay on-site, but if the company has the budget, they may take off-site excursions.

Corporate Kids Events does events all across the country. The supplies are shipped to the site, and a manager is dispatched from the company headquarters to oversee the event. The rest of the staff are screened, professional caregivers tapped from the local community. “We are meeting planners for the kids,” says Gouveia. “From pre-event marketing, to registrations, to implementation, to post-event evaluations, we take care of all their needs.”

Gouveia admits that it can be tough to convince companies to foot the child-care bill. “There's an investment involved there, but it's hopefully for a good return — and that's the whole idea. Not only is this going to help the individuals, but it's going to help the company.”