Child Care Availability
-Availability - To be of advantage or use
-Availability means Access
-Licensed Family Child Care
-Licensed Child Care Centers
-After School Programs
-State and Federally Funded Child Development Programs
Availability - To be of advantage or use.
Is child care available in Calaveras County? Our rural community tests the definition of availability. Is it of use or help to those seeking child care? Can it be accessed? Is it convenient to the job site, the home, or training centers? Is it open when needed? What age does it serve? Can those needing child care afford to use it? Is it a quality environment that provides developmental opportunities to our children? These are only some of the questions we must ask ourselves when evaluating the availability of child care in Calaveras County. Whether you are a parent, en employer, or a government representative, these questions affect your day-to-day lives. “Child Care Keeps America Working” is more than just a catch phrase. Many families move to the foothills for the affordable housing or quite country life, but they often find that their piece of the “American Dream” comes with a long daily commute and an absence of desperately needed family support services. To further complicate matters, transportation in Calaveras County is extremely limited. Some child care providers provide transportation to and from school and half-day programs, but many parents are responsible for all transportation arrangements for their children. This puts added stress and pressure on parents who are working. In contrast to the myth that rural mothers stay home with their children, the 2005 California Child Care Resource and Referral Portfolio found that labor participation rates of women was the 3rd highest in the state.[i] Rural families have the same child care needs as their urban/suburban counterparts but not the same access to quality, affordable options.
Availability means Access
There are many forms of child care available to families, but sorting through the choices can be very puzzling. Among the choices available in Calaveras County are licensed family child care homes, licensed child care centers, license-exempt care, and state/federally funded programs. Parents often seek child care facilities that are convenient to work, home and school while evaluating both the quality and cost of the program offered. Flexibility in work schedules and child care options often contribute to the child care choices families make. Most child care providers offer services between the hours of 6 a.m. and 6 p.m., Monday through Friday. This means that child care for non-traditional hours is next to non-existent. In rural areas this includes jobs in medical, law enforcement, recreation, retail, casinos and food service. The Resource Connection Child Care Resource and Referral services reports that in Calaveras County, only 13% of child care providers offer services during “non-traditional” hours[ii]. Another area of need for child care is infant/toddler care. Infant/toddler care is child care that is provided to a child under the age of two, with children under the age of one having the greatest need. The 2008 Child Care Needs Assessment indicated that 11% of all child care slots could accommodate infants an additional 37 infants slots would be needed to meet countywide child care needs for infant care.[iii] Due to the low adult-child ratio (1:4), infant care is difficult and costly to provide and therefore hard to find. Family child care providers and facilities operated by the local school districts represent the majority of providers. There are a handful of private child care centers. This is typical in a rural area, where the density of development does not provide a critical mass of people to support larger child care centers. About 60% of providers are either small or large family child care homes (FCCHs), with about 47% of the total as small FCCHs.[iv]
Licensed Family Child Care
For those who prefer a home-like setting, family child care is an option. Available as small (licensed for up to eight children under the age of ten, including their own), or large (licensed for up to fourteen children), they vary in their approach to child care. From relaxed atmospheres with daily activities that closely resemble the time a child would spend at home with their parents, to more structured routines with planned, scheduled activities. Some advantages of licensed family child care may be: the sense of extended family that benefits both parents and children, the opportunities for multi-age interaction, flexibility that may accommodate the parent's need for unusual hours, and the likelihood of smaller group sizes.
Licensed Child Care Centers
When choosing a licensed child care center, parents are selecting a program and a philosophy. For the parent who prefers a more structured daily routine, this includes regular hours, a clear philosophy of care and program goals, teacher-child and staff-child ratios, thoughtful organization of space and materials, communications between the staff and parents, and age-appropriate activities. Advantages of center care may include: a staff focused on child care, multiple adults to care for children, staff trained in child development and possible connections with other community resources.
Exempt child care comes in many different shapes and sizes including: care provided by a family member related by blood or marriage, a Co-Op where parents take turns watching each others children, and no money is exchanged, or an unrelated license-exempt provider that only watches the children from one family besides their own. Cost, cultural responsiveness and flexibility are often factors that appeal to parents. TrustLine is a registry for exempt child care providers including nannies and care givers “that have cleared criminal background checks in California. It’s the only authorized screening program of in-home caregivers in the state with access to fingerprint records at the California Department of Justice and the FBI.[v] This is an important tool that parents can use when selecting an in-home child care or license-exempt provider to care for their children. This means that if you want someone to come into your home to do child care, or if you want to take your child to someone else's home and they are not licensed, you can check if their backgrounds are clear of disqualifying criminal convictions and child abuse records. To check if a provider is registered on TrustLine or to register, call 1-800-822-8490.
After School Programs
Another license-exempt option for school-age children is on-site after school programs that are part of a school district. Parents need not worry about transportation and children enjoy an uninterrupted flow from school programs to child care.
State and Federally Funded Child Development Programs
Head Start and Early Head Start are federally funded and provide comprehensive early education programs for children from prenatal to age 5. The California State Preschool programs are funded by the state. Both programs have eligibility requirements and provide low or no-cost preschool to eligible families. Child development programs are designed to meet the emotional, social, health, nutritional, psychological, and educational needs of children and their families. School readiness is a primary focus.
i California Child Care Resource and Referral Network. 2005. Child Care Portfolio. http://www.rrnetwork.org/documents/publications/2005-portfolio-112911.pdf
ii California Child Care Resource and Referral Network. 2013. Child Care Portfolio. http://my.rrnetwork.org/site/DocServer/Calaveras.pdf?docID=7321
iii Brion and Associates. 2008. Calaveras Child Care Council Child Care Needs Assessment 2008-2013. Pg. 14 (see publications section for assessment)
iv Brion and Associates. 2008. 2008. Calaveras Child Care Council Child Care Needs Assessment 2008-2013. Pg. 14 (see publications section for assessment)
v About Trust Line California’s Background Check for In-Home Child Care. 2013. Welcome to TrustLine. Retrieved from: http://trustline.org/