LA County Has Lost Thousands of Licensed Child Care Seats. Access to Quality Care and Early Education is Limited
New searchable data website shows 11,200 seats lost. System is at a Tipping Point. Additional cuts would have a disproportionate impact on availability of care
(Los Angeles) Los Angeles County has lost thousands of licensed childcare spaces since 2008, leaving many parents hard pressed to find the child care and early childhood education services they need to care for their children and to participate in the workforce, according to new data compiled by the Los Angeles Children’s Data Network and published by a collaborative team of research and advocacy organizations including Advancement Project/Healthy City, Best Start LA, the Child Care Resource Center, First Five LA, , Pathways and the County of Los Angeles’ Office of Child Care.
“The Great Recession and years of budget cuts has left the overall system of early childhood care and education in Los Angeles County badly damaged, says John Kim, co-director of Advancement Project. “Access to quality care with trained, licensed providers is extremely limited, particularly in many low-income working communities.
“The system is at a tipping point. California has already cut more than $1.2 billion from early childhood care and education and the system cannot sustain additional cuts. An additional cut of 10 percent could wipe out more than half of licensed child care spots for low income working families in Los Angeles County.”
The research displayed on a new website “SaveMySeat” (www.savemyseatla.org) shows that more than 11,200 licensed child care and early child education spaces have been eliminated in communities across Los Angeles County since 2008. And the loss of available spaces has not fallen evenly or fairly. Low-income working class communities have been hit hard by the cutbacks. For example, Pomona lost 566 licensed child care seats, Compton lost 462 seats and Willowbrook lost 750 seats. By comparison, Santa Monica gained 424 seats. The most severe losses occurred in south and southwest Los Angeles County, the Antelope Valley, Pomona, and sections of the San Gabriel Valley.
The loss of child care spaces has left many families without access to quality childcare. On average, there is only one seat for every five children ages 0-5 in Los Angeles County. Among children 0-3, the situation is even worse. There are only 30,000 licensed spaces for more than 435,000 infants and toddlers ages 0-3, about seven seats for every 100 children. The availability of care is somewhat improved for children ages 3-5, but still there are only 38 seats available for every one hundred children.
The research makes clear that many providers have been badly damaged by a loss of funding and further budget cuts could have a disproportionate impact, forcing them to not just eliminate seats for a few, but to close their doors for many. And future cuts would hurt low-income families most. The study estimates a ten percent funding cut will eliminate 59 percent of available subsidized licensed childcare seats for low-income families in Los Angeles County.
“The lack of access to quality child care and early education opportunities hits hard at low income working families,” says Jacquelyn McCroskey, John Milner Professor of Child Welfare at the USC School of Social Work and collaborator on the project. “Quality child care is vital to child development and school readiness, and access to care enables parents to gain and sustain the employment they need to care for their families and develop economic security.
More than one-third of infants and toddlers in Los Angeles County live in low-income working families and many of these children lack access to childcare and early childhood education opportunities. There are 21 licensed childcare seats for every one hundred children ages 0-3 for low income working families. For children ages 3-5, the situation is better, but still there are only 50 seats for every one hundred children. And some low-income working communities have less access to care. For example, Lennox has 11 seats for every 100 children 0-3, 12 seats for every one hundred children ages 3-5. By comparison, Woodland Hills has 26 seats per 100 children ages 0-3.
Policy makers need to make smart, informed decisions to rebuild early child care and education opportunities in Los Angeles and across California,” concludes McCroskey. “At a time when every dollar counts, this research and website can provide critical data and analysis that can help inform and guide decision making as policy makers and providers work to protect and rebuild California’s system of early childhood education.”
The SaveMySeat website details the loss of child care seats and the availability of care by age group and income status. The data is searchable by zip code, city, school district and legislative and congressional districts in Los Angeles County. A report titled Shrinking Investments Yield Smaller Returns looks at the extent of cuts from 2008-2011 is available online at https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B2gfXr0EKW1ZWS1BNndBVDhFV28/edit?pli=1. SaveMySeat can be accessed at www.savemyseatla.org.
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