Day care centers helping out financially struggling parents | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Day care centers helping out financially struggling parents

Sara Thompson / Tahoe Daily Tribune

At Under the Magic Pine Tree day care center, not only do children play, but their parents can sometimes be found working to help out assistant director Raina Silva.

The arrangement is one way Silva assists parents who are struggling to pay for day care. For example, one parent works from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and then comes and cleans the preschool. Silva accepts the work as payment for day care.

“I’m not here to make $1 million,” Silva said. “I’m not going to turn kids away.”

Candi Bailey, Under the Magic Pine Tree director and owner, approves all the arrangements.

On a national level, many day care centers are losing business as parents who have lost their jobs pull their kids out of the facilities.

But the impact on the South Shore may be less, as day care centers have worked with parents to keep kids enrolled.

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Silva said Under the Magic Pine Tree hasn’t lost parents, but they haven’t gained new ones either.

In September 2007 the day care center gained 10 new families, but this September no new families enrolled, Silva said. The center has 60 spots, but only half are filled. During the summer, 53 children were enrolled.

Usually about six or seven 2-year-olds enroll in February and March, so Silva is waiting to see if that happens.

The average annual cost for day care for a preschooler in California is $7,477, and Nevada’s average cost is $6,707, according to the National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies.

Even before this year’s economic problems, the national cost had climbed 5.2 percent between 2006 and 2007, said Linda Smith, the association’s executive director. And in every state in the country, the monthly child care bill for two children is higher than median rent payments and as high or higher than a mortgage.

While 2005 U.S. Census Bureau data, the most recent available, indicated 2.65 million preschoolers attended day care, Smith’s association says current national enrollment ” or unenrollment ” figures are not available.

Kindertown Director Maria Crist said their program still is strong with 115 children and 18 employees. She said the center has been stable because it can accommodate children from six weeks to 10 years old.

Not all the families that have stayed are in the best financial situations. Some parents have lost their jobs, but Silva arranges for them to keep child care while they’re looking for new jobs.

Silva said the day care center tries to work with companies around town to help their employees pay for day care. For example, Raley’s employees can have five days of day care at a three-day rate because of a deal the centers worked out with the employer.

Another funding mechanism still in place is California state-funded preschool. Silva said if a family of four earns less than $48,372 per year, the family can qualify for 31?2 hours of free preschool a day, Monday through Friday.

At Under the Magic Pine Tree, children also eat breakfast and lunch for free because the meals are federally funded, Silva said.

Crist said the state funds are secure for the next year, but it was a struggle in the state legislature to keep the program in place.

Sarah Telles brings her daughter Isabel, 3, to Under the Magic Pine Tree for preschool. Telles said her family qualifies for state-funded preschool.

“I couldn’t afford it otherwise,” Telles said.

Telles said young children, such as her daughter, need a consistent routine. Silva agreed.

“It confuses them to go from place to place,” Silva said.

” The Associated Press contributed to this report.

California

$10,745 annual infant price

$7,477 annual price for a 4-year-old

$4,971 average public college tuition

Nevada

$8,391 annual infant price

$6,707 annual price for a 4-year-old

$3,955 average public college tuition

Source: National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies