Assessing county child-care needs |

Assessing county child-care needs

(Editor’s note: The following is the second story in a four-part series.)

The Nevada County 1999 Child Care Needs Assessment reveals that an estimated 2,000 children in Truckee require regular child care.

Only 649 full-day, licensed child-care spaces are available in Truckee and as few as 24 licensed spaces accommodate children under the age of two.

County statistics indicate that Truckee parents face a child-care crisis.

Statistics cited by Lifetime television indicate that crimes committed by young offenders increase dramatically during the immediate hours before and after school.

“There has to be support,” Paige Derdowski of Sierra Nevada Children’s Services said. “We as a community are in this together.”

Sierra Nevada Children’s Services, based in Grass Valley, provides child-care referral to local families through its branch office in the Joseph Government Center of Truckee.

Despite the shortage of child-care providers, many child-care opportunities are available to parents in Truckee, but Sierra Nevada Children’s Services Director Ruth Hall does not view all options equally.

“Our agency would be very careful in considering who we refer people to,” she said.

Only licensed child-care providers are referred, Hall said.

Licensed child care in Truckee takes two forms.

Licensed child-care centers are facilities that provide care for large numbers of children. Staffing ratio is one adult to four children under age 2 and one adult to 12 children over age 2.

Centers must fulfill explicit requirements which dictate the number of washroom facilities for children and staff, the size of indoor and outdoor play areas, play equipment used, type of lighting used.

Rebekah Shurtleff, Tahoe Forest Children’s Center Director, said these and other specifications can make converting homes to child-care centers difficult.

Six licensed child-care centers operate within Truckee. According to the assessment report, these centers can accommodate 393 children at one time.

Shurtleff said that Tahoe Forest Children’s Center receives between 10 and 15 calls each week from parents requesting child care, but she was unaware the situation is as severe as the county’s needs assessment reports.

“For a while we had a really long waiting list,” she said. “But right now it’s not as extensive as it has been. All of our five-day spaces are filled but we can accommodate some part-time requests.”

Shurtleff said that teachers at a licensed child-care center are required to have six months experience working in child care and twelve college-level units in areas such as child growth and development or program and curriculum development.

“If you’re dedicated to child development and the nurturing of children, then you do it, you keep taking units,” Shurtleff said. “I’ll probably always be in school.”

Shurtleff said that to become a teacher, she traveled one and a half hours to get to school. Travel-time created a hardship for her family, but would not for families in Truckee, she said, because Sierra College now offers many child development classes through its extension.

“I think it’s really important to support that in our community,” she said.

The most serious challenge now facing child-care facilities, Shurtleff said, is a recently revised fingerprinting requirement for all child-care licensees, applicants for a license, and the facility’s non-client adult residents, employees and volunteers.

Formerly, the background check needed only to be initiated before individuals could begin work.The law, which became effective January 1, states that fingerprints must now be sent to the California Department of Justice before individuals, including custodians and cooks, are present in the facility and before they have contact with children.

“It’s a good law that really protects the children,” Shurtleff said.

However, Shurtleff added, the fingerprinting portion of the background check can take eight weeks to complete and this delay prevents employers from promptly filling vacancies.

Shurtleff encourages individuals interested in providing child care to complete the background check before seeking employment. The entire process costs about $100, she said, and can be completed through the local sheriff’s office.

In addition to licensed child-care centers, 30 family child-care homes operate in Truckee.

Family child-care homes may be licensed for up to 12 children, according to information from Sierra Nevada Children’s Services, but an assistant must be present when more than six children are receiving care.

Care-givers and other adults having contact with children in family child-care homes are subject to the new fingerprinting requirement and must undergo a background check but less stringent regulations exist for home-care licensing than for center-care licensing.

Family home child-care providers must receive 15 hours of training which includes pediatric CPR; pediatric first aid; recognition, management and prevention of infectious diseases and immunization familiarization; and prevention of childhood injuries.

Training may also include sanitary food handling; child nutrition; emergency preparedness; caring for children with special needs; and identifying and reporting signs and symptoms of child abuse.

Tammy Cocard of Truckee has been providing child care from her home for 10 years. She is licensed to care for up to eight children, depending on their ages, she said, and in her opinion, burn-out may be the biggest problem facing in-home child-care providers.

“For any child-care provider, they have to find what’s right for themselves,” Cocard said. “And generally what happens is that people over-extend themselves and then pull back. What’s unfortunate, though, is that many of them don’t realize that they can pull back. Instead, they just burn-out and quit.”

Cocard said that another challenge facing in-home child-care providers is disruption to family life.

Often when husbands and children have holidays from work or school, Cocard said, the child-care provider must stay home to work.

When their own children have afterschool activities, Cocard said, child-care providers are at home caring for the children of other families. And housecleaning can be overwhelming.

“I felt like I never stopped cleaning,” Cocard said. “That’s a burn-out all by itself. When Saturday came, there was no way I wanted to spend one more minute doing housework. I didn’t even want to look at the laundry.”

Cocard recently found herself facing burn-out, she said, and last year decided to reduce the hours during which she provides care by only providing half-day care.

“I’d say for me, this last year doing the half-days has made it so I can keep doing child care,” she said. “It’s the best thing I’ve ever done and it’s made all the difference.”

Cocard also hired a professional housekeeper to clean her home.

“It’s worth every penny and I think every child-care provider should do it,” she said.

An alternative to licensed child care is unlicensed child care.

Unlicensed child-care includes play groups and parent co-op organizations, which generally provide only part-time care.

Individual care for a child in the child’s home, unlicensed in-home care, is also an option for parents.

Individuals who provide care to the children of only one family are also license-exempt.

All unlicensed child-care providers have the option of registering with Trustline, a background check service, by phoning 1-800-822-8490.

Sierra Nevada Children’s Services recommends parents request Trustline registration of all child-care providers and advises parents to be wary if providers refuse to submit to the background check.

Other child-care alternatives include businesses such as Little People’s Adventures, based in Tahoe City.

Director Tim Critz said that Little People’s Adventures is an outdoor adventure day-camp for children 6 to 13 years old.

Critz’s outdoor adventure camp is exempt from child-care licensing procedures, he said, because Little People’s Adventures is considered a club. Legally, Critz said, a club is a group that meets less than six months per year and Little People’s Adventures meets only during summer months.

Critz said Little People’s Adventures staff maintain advanced first aid, CPR and community water safety certifications.

Sierra Nevada Children’s Services recognizes that child-care needs differ among families and that child-care options differ from among providers. Sierra Nevada Children’s Services recommends careful research in selecting child care. For assistance, information and child-care referral call 587-5960.

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