Report indicates child-care needs not met in Truckee | SierraSun.com
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Report indicates child-care needs not met in Truckee

ANNE GROGAN

The Week of the Young Child, a national event scheduled from April 18 – 24, raises public awareness about the needs of young children and their families.

Truckee’s child-care needs are not being sufficiently met, according to a report recently released by the Child Care Coordinating Council of Nevada County.

Nevada County’s 1999 Child Care Needs Assessment released by the council states that Truckee residents include 1,071 children from birth to 5 years of age and 3,011 children ages 5 through 14.

The council estimates that Truckee has at least 2,000 children who require some sort of child care while their parents work, either because two incomes are required to sustain the family or because a single, working parent is the sole source of support for the family.

“Eighty-five percent of children under 14 spend time in child care,” said Ruth Hall, Truckee branch manager of Sierra Nevada Children’s Services.

“As a community, what should we be looking for in child care?” she asked.

According to the council’s report, the answer is more child care.

Data indicates that for Truckee’s 2,000 children requiring child care, only 649 full-day, licensed child-care spaces are available.

Of these, 24 spaces are available for children younger than 2-years-old.

About 1,300 families in Truckee are faced with a child-care crisis.

“It’s hard to find,” Hall said. “Especially for infants and younger children.”

The report states that while parents work, some children are cared for by relatives or friends, nannies or babysitters. Most, however, receive child care outside their homes.

In evaluating the child-care situation in Nevada County, only full-day programs are included by the council in its definition of child care, stating that part-day preschool programs, such as Head Start and some private preschools, do not meet the needs of most parents working full-time.

Parents who seek licensed child care for their children have two options: child-care centers and family child-care homes.

Child-care centers vary in size and may serve children of different age groups.

Licensing requirements include instruction in education and childhood development for caregivers and administrators, health and safety requirements, space requirements and maximum child-to-adult ratios.

Only centers operated by school district staff are license-exempt.

Truckee has six child-care centers with the capacity for serving 393 full-time children. Many children attend less than full-time and therefore centers in Truckee have the potential to serve more children than their limits imply.

Family child-care homes offer an alternative that provide licensed service for children in the home of the caregiver.

With one provider, the family child-care home can be licensed for six or eight children depending on the age of the children. With two providers, a license may be issued for the care of as many as 12 or 14 children, depending on their ages.

Licensing regulations for family child-care homes require health and safety training, including CPR, for caregivers.

Within Truckee, there are 30 family child-care homes with the combined capacity of providing care to 256 full-time attending children from infancy through 12 years of age. Again, part-time attendance increases the number of children to whom these businesses can provide care.

A third alternative is license-exempt care.

People who provide child care for members of only one family are exempt from licensing regulations. For many parents in Truckee, this may be the only child-care option available.

For parents who choose the license-exempt child-care option, background screening of providers is available through Trustline, a voluntary California registry of in-home child-care providers who have passed a background screening, similar to the background screening providers in state-licensed settings must undergo.

Trustline uses updated and detailed databases at the California Department of Justice and the FBI to screen out individuals who have criminal histories such as murder, manslaughter, child molestation, assault with a deadly weapon, willful child cruelty and other crimes. Information on the Trustline registry can be obtained by contacting Sierra Nevada Children’s Services at 587-5960 or by phoning 1-800-822-8490.

The Child Care Coordinating Council study also revealed that within Nevada County, 17 percent of parents are employed on swing or night shifts and 32 percent of parents who contact the Sierra Nevada Children’s Services office for child-care referral seek care during non-traditional hours, such as evenings, weekends, or rotating shifts.

No child care centers in Nevada County offer non-traditional hours of service.

Only 27 percent of licensed family child-care homes offer weekend, evening, or overnight care. This situation severely limits employment choices for parents of young children, especially problematic in an area where tourist-based employment in restaurants, retail shops and at ski areas is relatively high.

In conclusion, the study states that there is not enough licensed child care in Nevada County and that the county lacks an effective plan to ensure high quality child care for all working families.

The council recommends adopting a Nevada County Child Care Master Plan which would include implementing a computerized, cross-referencing system to increase communication and collaboration between providers of social services to young children and require the county to recognize the current information on child development and early education.

The council’s second recommendation is to improve the quality and quantity of child care and early education by applying for state and federal funds for child care, reviewing local zoning codes to allow child-care facilities wherever feasible, and encouraging school districts to include child-care facilities in financing, space and program planning.

Plans for implementation also include supporting Sierra College in establishing a model child-care program at the Nevada County Campus in Grass Valley, allocating more public funds to child-care initiatives and involving child development professionals in discussions of education and economic development.


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