Childcare crisis hits Winters

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As if there wasn’t enough to stress about these days, finding childcare is another anxiety-inducing problem for parents and guardians. Unfortunately, Winters is not immune to the childcare crisis currently impacting the nation.

There are a number of factors contributing to the childcare crisis the country finds itself in. Lack of funding for one, which contributes to the lack of attraction and retention of early childcare providers. Also, the cost of early childcare and infant care is often more than what some families can afford — if they can even find them in the first place. And, of course, the recent pandemic has only added fuel to this fire.

According to the article, “The True Cost of Providing Safe Childcare During the Coronavirus Pandemic,” the cost of childcare has increased 47 percent for childcare centers and 70 percent for family childcare homes. Accompanying that is data from the California Childcare Resource and Referral Network that indicate from January 2020 to January 2021 there was a 53 percent loss of licensed childcare centers and a 23 percent loss of licensed childcare in Yolo County.

“The childcare system in Yolo County, the state and the nation is fragile. Then going into the pandemic, an already-fragile and very decentralized system has become even more battered and tenuous,” said Gina Daleiden, Executive Director of First 5 Yolo. “Childcare is an underfunded system and many parents in Yolo County rely on smaller family childcare homes or private centers and that’s the system that’s been so battered during the pandemic. Childcare workers became first

responders,  the job has never been well-compensated and then the job became outright dangerous. So, they worried about their health, the health of their families and the children they’re serving. They weren’t prepared to be these frontline essential responders and that’s why a lot left the profession.”

On a more local scale — and in the midst of this childcare crisis — the Pioneer Church leadership made the decision to close down their daycare program to refurbish its Wesley Hall building.

Little Pioneers Daycare Director Gwen Adams said not only was Little Pioneers one of the center-based facilities in town that provides an infant care program, but its standard daycare program was set to be filled come August.

“For Winters, especially, it’s the lack of facilities and (that) Little Pioneers was the only infant care in town that’s not an in-home program. And, with in-home programs you can only have three to four children depending on your license under the age of two,” Adams said. “For us, we were licensed for 20 that are under two-years-old. The situation is dire, also, because it’s very hard to hire people. We can’t compete with wages from WalMart or Chick-Fil-A unless I start charging families a lot more than what I’m charging in tuition.”

Another childcare program trudging through myriad difficulties is the Treehouse Children’s Center.            

“Full-time care of kids for those full-time working families is care that’s really missing, too. We are ending our full-time care as well and only going to 2:30 p.m.,” said Treehouse co-owner Cheryl Moore. “Janet Anderson and I have scaled things down so we can actually move out of the business and put other people in charge. In order to do that we had to get rid of that full-time care. But, I think every child, minimally, should have at least one year of preschool before they go into kindergarten because there’s so much social and emotional learning to be done. So, having that experience of group play and following teachers’ instructions is very important.”

According to Daleidon, Yolo County, with its American Rescue Plan funds, have allocated $1.3 million to First 5 Yolo to provide grants to childcare providers to increase their infrastructure as well as to support providers who’ve been open throughout the pandemic. There’s much conversation and legislation yet to be done in this regard, but the wheels are beginning to turn in the right direction.

Local program options
Locally, the Winters Parent Nursery School Board of Directors has approved to hire on the Little Pioneers Daycare staff and is absorbing some of the Little Pioneers families into their preschool program. Through the creation of special programs to allow for early drop-off and extended care opportunities, WPNS is hoping to provide a form of after-care for children ages two to six for their enrolled families.

“Our interim Board of Directors has been working hard to find a solution that blends our family participation preschool culture with the need to provide care for children in the early childhood age range after our preschool program ends at 11:30 a.m.,” said Express editor Crystal Apilado, WPNS Board of Directors President. “The introduction of universal transitional kindergarten has cause a great impact for early childhood education programs across the board. Preschool programs are having to think outside of the box and look into program changes to not only stay relevant, but to keep their programs alive.”

WPNS is a private, nonprofit preschool program. While it is currently enrolling, Apilado warns that they are close to having full rosters and will begin a wait list.

Creators of the universal transitional kindergarten (universal TK) efforts tout a “mixed delivery system” where children can go to other programs following their transitional kindergarten school day. With a network of local private and public childcare, preschool and afternoon program options, families would need to figure out a means of transportation from the morning to the afternoon program of choice.

Language in the universal TK efforts state that parents who have children ages 4 and up (within the early childhood education range) can choose to have their child enrolled in transitional kindergarten or preschool.

The Winters State Preschool Center (part of the Winters Joint Unified School District) program is looking to provide families with an option through their afternoon program. WSPC Director Bea Jordan said families who have children who are enrolled in the transitional kindergarten program or other morning preschool program should consider looking into dual enrolling their child in the WSPC afternoon program.

Other local program options for young children include Head Start and the YMCA Of The East Bay Child Development Center Winters location.

Families who are interested in either of these programs will need to fill out registration paperwork, and may need to qualify within the set income brackets to be eligible.

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