Council looks to oversee, improve child care |

Council looks to oversee, improve child care

B.H. Bose

The El Dorado County Board of Supervisors appointed 20 members to its child care and development planning council last week – a council required by the state of California, but initiated by El Dorado County.

The 20-member council, officially titled the El Dorado County Local Child Care and Development Planning Council, was formed to “provide a forum” for local child-care priorities.

Local child care planning councils were officially mandated in AB 2141. The bill authorized local councils to determine child care needs, to develop priorities for the allocation of federal child care and development block grant funds, and to prepare a countywide child care plan.

AB 1542 followed in 1997, creating CalWORKS. It evolved as part of welfare reform. By determining that a countywide child care “master plan” was needed, along with an assessment of the child care needs, the councils inherited more responsibility.

“Assembly Bill 1542 strengthened the responsibility and authority for child care and development planning councils,” said Kathleen Walker, child care coordinator for El Dorado County Local Child Care and Development Planning Council.

The federal government allocated $2.4 million to each state to implement the councils during the 1997-98 year. The funds are dispersed through the California Department of Education based upon county population. El Dorado County, considered a “small” county, received $30,000.

While the child care and development planning councils were formed in 1991, and reinforced in 1997, El Dorado County already had established its own child care council, according to Judi Harkins, assistant to the Board of Supervisors.

“In the beginning Supervisor (John) Upton and the Superintendent of Schools (Vicki Barber) were both telling their staff that they should get a child care and planning council going,” said Harkins, who will act as an advisory liaison for the council.

Now that the legislation requires each county to have a child care and development planning council, Harkins said it is an honor.

“We were already doing what is now mandatory by law. We are quite pleased we got such an endorsement,” she said. “We have been recognized by the state.”

Still, the latest bill (AB 1542) required El Dorado to go even further than it had with its own program, and the 20-member council was formed. The first goal of the council will meet June 10 at the County Office of Education in South Lake Tahoe to discuss strategy.

“The first step is to again create a needs assessment and determine the exact needs of each community, because a community like Georgetown will have different needs than, say, El Dorado Hills,” Harkins said. “It will be directed primarily at low-income children and families, but the fold will encompass everyone.”

The focus, similar to welfare reform, will be providing child care so that low-income parents will be able to get back to work.

“This is really exciting, especially with Welfare-to-Work. It is an exciting opportunity to try to maximize the quality and availability (of child care) – offering 24-hour care, sick child care, weekend care. Tahoe is a very unique place with unique needs because it’s a 24-hour town,” Harkins said.

With the county expecting continued growth, the desire is to maintain quality child care.

The public is invited to attend the council’s first official meeting June 10. It will be at 10:30 a.m. at the County Office of Education in South Lake Tahoe.

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