Photo credit: Zaidee Stavely/EdSource

Families across California can now search for open child care programs on a new state website — though essential workers are the only ones who can take advantage under the state’s shelter-in-place orders.

Creating one online “portal” where families all over the state can search for open child care programs has been a goal of the state for a long time — “almost two decades in the making,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said during his Thursday press briefing.

“These challenges, you know, they birth necessity and innovation,” he said.

In the past, families searching for care either had to contact individual programs or go through local child care resource and referral agencies to find out what options were available in their area.

Under the state’s shelter-in-place order, children should currently be attending child care programs only if they are the children of essential workers or are homeless, in foster care, are at risk of being neglected or abused, or have disabilities or special health care needs. Children of essential workers are now eligible for free child care during the shelter-in-place order.

Newsom said that 63% of the licensed child care facilities have been “impacted” because of the coronavirus pandemic. Thousands of programs have closed; others have lost many of their students. He said that the state and counties have worked with hospitals and other employers to open up 432 pop-up child care facilities to serve hospital workers and other essential workers.

Families who need child care can search the website by zip code to see what homes and centers are open. They can also find out how many slots they have open for children, hours of operation, as well as information about complaints and reports on health and safety made by Community Care Licensing, the agency that oversees child care licensing and operations in the state.

The website does not appear to include all child care centers or homes, and may not be completely up to date. For example, it shows at least some child care centers with open spaces that have actually closed. The website states it will be updated twice a week.

Newsom acknowledged that the portal may not show many child care centers available in some neighborhoods.

“That’s on us to do more and do better in that space,” Newsom said. “The constraints with so many of these facilities shutting down makes that more challenging, but that’s our responsibility to work through and figure out.”

Newsom announced that the federal government’s coronavirus stimulus bill, the CARES Act, includes $350 million to help California bolster child care during this time. He said he would give more details in his revised budget proposal in May.

Some early education advocates applauded the efforts to get the portal up and running.

“Families in California often struggle to find access to child care that meets their needs,” said Ted Lempert, president of Children Now, a research and advocacy organization based in Oakland. “This is exacerbated much more right now as essential workers try to find open spaces that meet the demands of their work, as well as the social, emotional and developmental needs of their children.”

Finding child care will be crucial, as the shelter-in-place order is revised and more people are able to go back to work, said Kimberley Johnson, director of the California Department of Social Services.

“We’ll continue to take thoughtful approaches to ensure the safety and well-being of children as we look at our roadmap to modify the stay-at-home order,” Johnson said.

She highlighted the department’s health and safety guidelines for child care programs that are open during the coronavirus pandemic. The guidelines call for child care providers to do activities outdoors as much as possible and to keep children separate from each other by using carpet squares, tape, or string to create individual spaces for them to play or sit. They also require providers to keep cots for naptime 6 feet apart and change the way children are dropped off or picked up, to prevent families from congregating with each other.

Similar health and safety guidelines for child care issued by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have been criticized by some advocates as being unrealistic and difficult for most child care programs to follow.

“The sheer breadth of recommended routines requires a level of staffing and space — placing children six feet apart at naptime for example! — that programs typically do not have and that actually run counter to how children and their teachers interact in group settings,” reads a statement written by the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment at UC Berkeley, which researches and proposes policies for improving conditions for the early education workforce.

This article was corrected on May 5, 2020 to show that Newsom said 63% of facilities were impacted, not closed.

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  1. Corinna 2 weeks ago2 weeks ago

    Thank you for this informative article, Ms. Stavely. Is it possible for the state of California to allow a Christian Day Care to be included on the list of day care facilities that parents who are essential workers may choose from in order to be eligible to receive the child care subsidy? My two grandchildren already attend an open daycare and have been thriving there. My daughter and her husband were approved for the … Read More

    Thank you for this informative article, Ms. Stavely. Is it possible for the state of California to allow a Christian Day Care to be included on the list of day care facilities that parents who are essential workers may choose from in order to be eligible to receive the child care subsidy? My two grandchildren already attend an open daycare and have been thriving there. My daughter and her husband were approved for the subsidy… then denied the funds because the facility is a Christian daycare.

    Is there any exception that can be made during this pandemic. My daughter is a social worker and her husband is a nurse.

    Replies

    • Zaidee Stavely 2 weeks ago2 weeks ago

      Hi Corinna. My understanding is that some child care subsidies can be used at any licensed provider, and it is up to the provider to accept them or not. I recommend that the parents reach out to their local resource and referral agency to understand more.

  2. Al Johnson 1 month ago1 month ago

    I read your column on essential worker child care and I have to say, I just went back to work after running out of my FMLA and can seek no help with assistance on child care. My regular and local day care that's open for essential workers is charging $250 a week on top of a $50 enrollment fee. When before I only paid $120 a week with them. I'm so upset because … Read More

    I read your column on essential worker child care and I have to say, I just went back to work after running out of my FMLA and can seek no help with assistance on child care. My regular and local day care that’s open for essential workers is charging $250 a week on top of a $50 enrollment fee. When before I only paid $120 a week with them. I’m so upset because I am a county employee and have to go back to work.

    I called my local child care resource center who assists with these payment to find out that those who are already on the program, which was to end on June 30, got another 3 months extension, but I been signed up and now have to be on a waiting list if and when funds become available. So now I’m trying to struggle to pay and trying to seek elsewhere to get my child in somewhere and on top of it all he’s considered a high risk due to his asthma issues.

    Why can’t the government help. When low income people have to go to school and attend training programs, the state will pay no matter what for their children to go to any day care no matter the cost. Why can’t this happen now, especially since none of that is being used right now?

    Replies

    • Zaidee Stavely 1 month ago1 month ago

      Hi Al. It’s a huge problem in California. There are not enough funds available for subsidized child care to cover all low-income people to begin with, and when they do get subsidies, it does not cover any cost, there is a cap. There is some funding for essential workers, but as you mentioned, I think it is being prioritized for those who were already enrolled before June 30. Hopefully more funding will become available.

  3. Jenny ha 4 months ago4 months ago

    ABC Evergreen PreSchool
    2650 Aborn Rd San Jose, CA 95121
    (408)791-7772 is reopen for business

    Replies

    • Zaidee Stavely 3 months ago3 months ago

      Hi Jenny. The state is asking child care and preschool providers to update their status with their local resource and referral agency.