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What You Should Look for in Child Care: The True Story

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In today’s world it is hard to provide for a family on one income so most of us do not have the option of staying at home to care for our infants. In fact 70 percent of us return to work.

Nationwide, only 5 percent of child-care center space is for infants up to two years old. The lack of capacity in our child-care centers forces parents to leave their infants with alternative, often very varied quality care. Organizations like Zero to Three and NAEYC are fighting to change this at the national level.

At the local level a lot can be done to change this and this is why I am writing this article, to educate you on some of the issues in early childhood education/child care and how they can be affected on a local level.

What you need to know about licensed family child-care homes:

  • The providers are not trained in early childhood education. It is very easy for them to get licensed.
  • There is very little oversight. Licensing visits a licensed family child-care home once every five years.
  • One-third of licensed family child-care homes go out of business their first year.
  • If your child is hurt or abused in a licensed family child-care home, you may find it very difficult to hire a lawyer to sue them in civil court—85 percent of licensed family child-care homes do not carry the $300K liability insurance/bond they are required to purchase. 

Tips for Parents Who Leave Their Child in Licensed Family Child-Care Homes:

  • Ask the provider for a copy of their liability insurance, and get a photo copy of their policy. Call the insurer and make sure it is the correct type of insurance and that it is currently active. The insurance should cover the provider running a child-care business from their home (some providers think their home owners policy will cover them but it does not). Make sure the policy has coverage for abuse, some policies don’t. If the provider does not carry insurance tell them to purchase it from day-care insurance. Call the other parents who the provider gave you as references and alert them to the provider’s lack of insurance. Parents may not know that the provider is supposed to carry insurance and may not understand the implications of provider not carrying it.
  • If your child or another child gets hurt in a provider’s home, call licensing and report the incident. Follow up within a couple of days and make sure they followed up on your call.

California Department of Social Services
Orange County Regional Office
750 The City Drive, suite 250
Orange, CA 92868
(714) 703-2800

  • If you suspect abuse or neglect, call the police as well as Social Services. Again, follow up and make sure they followed up on it. Always  report your suspicions, that way it gets documented and if a number of incidents get reported licensing will have written dated documentation that will help them catch things quicker.
  • Make sure you get all of the other parents contact information so you can alert them if you have any suspicions. Because parents drop off and pick up children at different times there is not much interaction and conversation between parents in licensed family child-care homes. You will be much more likely to catch things quicker if you are communicating regularly with each other. Keep written dated records of any incidents parents mention.

Child-Care Centers:

  • Staff teachers have a minimum of twelve CE credits in early childhood education. NAEYC-certified centers require all of the teachers to be degreed.

TIP: I took four CE unit class in infants and toddlers at UCI and highly recommend that class for new parents as well as teachers. It was a thirteen-week class, two nights a week 6:30–9 p.m. As part of this course you are required to do observations; I was able to get permission from a number of Irvine centers to do observations at their facilities, which gave me an opportunity to spend a lot of time observing their infant and toddler rooms.

  • They carry liability insurance.
  • Most are linked to franchise so have additional oversight by their corporate office.
  • There are a lot more parents walking in and out during the day, again leading to more oversight. Also, because there are a lot more parents you have a lot more opportunities to communicate with the parents.

TIP: You can visit the California Department of Social Services, Orange County Regional Office and look at their files to see what incidents have been reported in the past. 

The child-care-center market is dominated by for-profit child-care centers. In fact, two-thirds of the child-care center market is for-profit centers. They are running a business and want to deal with the most profitable segment of the market the preschoolers. The infant and toddlers are not profitable for them. Most of the centers only take age 2.5 and potty-trained children. Those that take infants and toddlers limit their numbers.

Most centers fall under California Code of Regulations Title 22. 

Centers that take publicly funded children (Department of Education funded) fall under Title V, which has stricter regulations, making them more expensive to operate. Many centers either do not take publicly funded children or they quietly limit their numbers. Public funds fall short of actual costs and also involve more administration increasing operation costs.

Government programs like Head Start are unable to serve the needs of many of our low-income families because there is not enough funding. They serve ages three to five; they show similar stats for infants and toddlers about 5 percent capacity. They fall under Title V, which has stricter guidelines. One of the issues Head Start has that inhibits them from providing services to more low income families is they have no incentive to fundraise—for every dollar raised reduces their government funding by a dollar.

Local City Council Members Can Do a Lot to Support Child-Care Centers:

  • The City of Long Beach allows child-care centers to be built on community park land and gives them long-term lease at $1/year. The cost of an acre of land in Irvine is $2 million. Our organization is looking for Irvine city council members to implement a similar policy in Irvine.
  • Another big obstacle is the CUP (Conditional Use Permit). Once a child-care center purchases land, they apply to the city to get a CUP. I was told by all of the Irvine day-care-center directors that this is a big obstacle in Irvine. UCI Montessories of Irvine, Northwood facility took twelve months to get their CUP, nine months to build their facility, and three months to fill their facility. The issue with the CUP is you are paying top dollar on land that you cannot build on till you get the CUP.

How Does Your City Decide Where Child-Care Centers Are Located?

In Irvine, there are sites on our master plan that are potential sites for child-care centers. I am highlighting this as parents need to realize there are some issues with this. 

The first issue is, it is up to the developer whether or not they look at actually putting a child-care center on the site. So a lot of developers don’t even look at it!

The second issue is, the site may not be suitable for a child-care center. There was a site on Irvine’s master plan for a child-care center in the village of Woodbury, Irvine. Woodbury is a medium/high density housing area that has 3,400 children under the age of four; 15 percent of their homes (ninety to be exact) in the affordable housing program. The local directors all went to view the site to see if they wanted to bid on it. They all told me the same story. The site was backing onto major roads that meant they would need more setbacks, that was land they would be paying top dollar for that they could not build on. There was a sewer system going through the site, which was land they could not build on. They were left with a buildable lot that was too small and too awkward a shape. No one bid on the site and they are now building apartments on it. The directors told me that they are repeatedly being shown sites like this that are unsuitable.

I know many of you are dealing with infants and toddlers and work full or part-time and have very little time to get involved. There is one thing you can do for us that will not take up a lot of your time. Tell all your friends and family about us and tell your employer about us. Help us spread the word! Go to our Facebook page and hit the “like” button to help us gain exposure to your Facebook friends. Make a comment on your wall about us!  

We have an innovative business model that will enable us to serve this age group and that will also enable us to serve low-income families both living and working in Irvine.

Facebook.com/pages/Irvine-CA/Spectrum-Infant-Toddler-Montessories/126943707341391

Deirdre M. Kelly
Spectrum Infant & Toddler Montessories
CEO & Founder
Past President National Association of Women Business Owners, Orange County Chapter
Spectrummontessories.com

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