Agency helps parents find child care
Child-care providers are struggling to meet the needs of families throughout El Dorado County.
Finding licensed child care is a challenge, especially for parents with infants and those working and commuting long hours. Licensed child care is only available for 22 percent of children with parents in the labor force.
Additionally, only 6 percent of slots in child-care centers are available for babies, and just 6 percent of licensed child-care centers and 22 percent of family child-care homes provide care during non-traditional hours including overnight, evenings, and weekends.
With 31 percent more women in the work force now than in 1990, the lack of quality child care is critical, according to a report released by the California Child Care Resource and Referral Network, a statewide organization with a local member agency in South Lake Tahoe.
“The shortage of licensed child care in El Dorado County is a problem, and the problem is especially acute for infants. More families need infant care, need care in languages other than English, and need care that will accommodate the schedules of the increasing number of parents working non-traditional hours. These services are sorely lacking in our county,” said Jennifer Lawrence, director of Choices for Children.
The cost of licensed child care remains a significant challenge as families search for care that accommodates their schedules and other needs. Child-care expenses average $6,320 a year for a preschooler in a licensed child-care center, representing 45 percent of the income for a family with both parents earning minimum wage.
If the same family had an infant in a family child-care home, their child-care expenses would increase to 54 percent of their income.
While middle-income families struggle to balance child care and housing expenses against other family needs, lower-income families find these expenses comprise more than their entire household’s income. Choices for Children administers child-care subsidies for low-income families that qualify for assistance. However, due to state funding shortages and the unpredictable nature of state and federal budget decision-making, the number of families needing assistance far outweighs the subsidies available. In the South Lake Tahoe area, Choices for Children has 134 families on its waiting list.
Choices for Children is a nonprofit organization dedicated to assisting parents and providers in their efforts to find and deliver quality care for children. Funded by the California Department of Education, Child Development Division, Choices for Children is one of more than 61 community-based resource and referral agencies throughout the state that help parents find child-care by providing counseling and referrals; support providers by conducting workshops in child development, safety, and management; and help policymakers by gathering standardized data, identifying key areas of need, and participating in policy discussions that bring the issue of families to the forefront.
The nonprofit California Child Care Resource & Referral Network is an association of member resource and referral agencies throughout California. Based in San Francisco, with offices in Chico, Los Angeles, Hanford, and Sacramento, the network coordinates data collection among member agencies, conducts research, and develops training materials used by R&R’s to keep parents informed and to facilitate discussion among parents, providers, and government leaders. It helps build the supply and quality of child care by supporting recruitment and training of child care providers, and it manages TrustLine, the state’s criminal background check for in-home and license-exempt child care providers.
As the oldest, most established of child-care resource and referral in the country, the network plays a vital role in national policy discussions.
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