California's Working Parents Struggle To Find Licensed Child Care
Dec 20, 2007
The California Child Care Resource and Referral Network has published its biennial analysis of the supply of licensed child care in the state. The results underscore the lack of investments in child care: there are only enough licensed child care slots for one-quarter of children with working parents. For families with babies, the results are more distressing only five percent of all licensed slots in child care centers are for children under age two. The lack of licensed child care choices means many parents may have to place their children in unlicensed settings, which may or may not be what they would otherwise choose.
The report also notes that even families who can find licensed care cannot afford it. The report looked at the cost of care by county, and found that the average annual cost for full time care for an infant in a licensed center is $10,745, consuming 69% of earnings for a single parent making minimum wage. In 34 counties, the combined cost of infant care and housing exceeds the income of a minimum wage earner.
Licensing matters for babies. For example, provisions in state child care licensing, such as the child-to-staff ratio and group size, affect the amount of time a child care provider can spend with children, and thus the likelihood that an infant or toddler receives the nurturing, responsive care essential to forming a secure attachment with their caregiver. Licensing standards are also important to the health and safety of infants and toddlers, who require additional care that older children do not, such as diapering, feeding, holding, bathing, and sleeping on their backs to prevent SIDS. The training, technical assistance, and monitoring embedded in state licensing systems assist licensed child care providers in providing quality care.
California is not the only state facing these shortages in licensed care. Recent reports from NACCRRA highlight the high cost of care across the country and identified failings in state licensing systems. The California report provides an important policy and advocacy tool for understanding the need for substantial new state and federal investments in the child care system both to help low-income working families afford the care they need to work and to improve and expand the supply of licensed care, particularly for babies.