Dana Mudd and Mike Kahlich nipped child-care problems in the bud when they moved to Truckee more than four years ago.
The couple didn’t find precisely what they wanted for their now 3-year-old son, Calvin, so they started up their own child-care operation ” Papoose Infant Care and Preschool.
“We looked around and I was at the point I couldn’t find what I was looking for, so I created it … a more holistic take on care,” Mudd said. “We’re very into organic, fresh food, holistic education, looking at the whole child ” their health, their spiritual upbringing and environmental standpoint.”
Now, Mudd and Kahlich not only spend days with their precocious son, who’s dressed in a pirate costume and dancing to disco music during an interview Tuesday, but they no longer face the preschool dilemma that other parents must tackle.
Several families say child-care access in the Tahoe-Truckee area is a challenge, with extensive waiting lists, high costs and limited accessibility hampering working parents’ ability to provide the best care for their children.
“Infant care is really hard to find in the first place,” Mudd said. “There are very few places that take someone under 2 [years old]. I still have people calling almost everyday trying to find infant care.”
Children’s services organizations agree ” Tahoe-Truckee child-care resources could use some work.
“There are several concerns with child care; one of them is the cost of child care, which can be up to $10,000 per child per year. Imagine you’re a family of four, you’re looking at quite a substantial chunk of take-home pay just to cover child care,” said Stephanie Rogerson, director of the Community Collaborative of Tahoe Truckee.
Affordability, accessibility and availability are the three biggest issues eastern Placer and Nevada county families face when it come to child care, said Executive Director Catherine Goins of Early Childhood Education in Placer County’s Office of Education.
“The issue is resources … and it’s very expensive,” Goins said. “Quality child care is very expensive. Families can be paying 20 percent or more of their income for care.”
Officials with Sierra Nevada Children’s Services, Truckee’s counterpart to the Placer Office of Education, said certain demographics struggle more than others ” middle-income families who don’t qualify for subsidized care, parents who work odd hours and undocumented families.
“They can’t afford the cost of child care. A lot of times I see families leave the area or I see families commuting a great distance,” said Stephanie Blume, regional director of the children’s services agency.
“You already have families impacted by the high cost of living … as a result you end up losing families. This can be seen in our school enrollment rates. It’s a crisis here in the sense that … families decide to live in Reno or Sacramento or other areas that are less expensive,” Rogerson added.
Additionally, risky situations can arise where children are left alone or with unlicensed providers, she said.
No all-encompassing solution to the community’s mounting child-care problem is in the works, but officials say they are examining several options.
“The real solution would be a building in our community,” Blume said. “It could serve the middle-income, maybe be subsidized in some ways, but it would serve the families that are slipping through the cracks.”
Another option, Blume said, is through the community college. The school could implement an on-site program where students in child-development courses could staff an infant and preschool facility.
“When you combine a child-care center with educational facilities you get a really great program,” she said.
But there is still hope for families in need of child care, officials say.
“The good news is the people in the North Tahoe area, they are so committed to the children and families of the Tahoe area. They are providing wonderful services, the availability remains a challenge,” Goins said.
For example, Placer County was recently awarded funding to support a day-long, year-round child-care program, Goins said.
Truckee officials agree that the future still looks bright.
“We’ve come a long way in the last 22 years,” said Ruth Hall, who has worked in the school district and for Nevada County in children’s services. “We have a lot of high-quality child care.”
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The Truckee Town Council has unanimously approved of a pilot program to remove snow on privately maintained paved trails in the area.