Child Care Needs Assessment
The California Department of Education, Early Education and Support Division requires every county to develop a child care needs assessment for their jurisdictions. The Child Care Planning Council of Sonoma County has prepared this report not only to satisfy this requirement, but also to help inform child care policies and priorities based on the current status of child care in the County. Issues discussed in this report include:
- Current supply of licensed child care within Sonoma County
- Demand for child care by age for County residents
- Magnitude and location of gaps in child care supply
- Cost of child care for families
- Sources of child care subsidy assistance
- Estimates of the level of need for child care among special populations, such as children at risk of abuse or neglect, children with disabilities, and non-English speakers
- Availability of specific provider schedules and services
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Child Care Plan
The Countywide Plan for Child Care and Education: Birth through Twelve Years for 2016-2021 outlines existing conditions in Sonoma County, identifies five goals and recommends strategies. Below is a summary of the goals outlined in the Plan.
Goal 1: Sonoma County children, birth to age 12, have high quality care and education. Numerous studies have shown that children’s experiences in their early years influence future cognitive, social and emotional development, school readiness and future academic performance. Quality care and education supports children’s optimal growth and development in all these areas. These programs feature play-based learning and developmentally appropriate materials and practices. They provide opportunities for children to be immersed in reading, and engaged in rich language experiences and creative expression.
Goal 2: Sonoma County families have affordable care and education for their children birth to age 12. Access to affordable care and education promotes both participation in the workforce and economic and social stability. Currently the annual cost of child care is comparable to public college tuition and is unsustainable for many families. Child Care Aware, a national resource hub for parents and child care providers, reports that in California, the average cost of infant care consumes 45% of the median income of a single parent and 9.3% of a married couple. Center-based four-year-old care costs 31% of a single parent’s income and 10% of the income of a married couple. Transitional Kindergarten and scholarship programs serve as two examples that address this issue, but these programs have focused only on four-year-old children. The need is still very high for children ages birth through three years old.
Goal 3: Sonoma County care and education professionals are highly trained and fairly compensated. Highly trained and appropriately paid care and education professionals are essential to the future success of young children. Numerous studies have linked teacher qualifications and pay to the quality of services provided to children and families. Unfortunately these professionals remain underpaid and are too often minimally trained. As a result, staff turnover is a continuing problem. High quality programs feature continuity of care as a crucial element. This consistency provides a level of stability and security that children need in order to learn and develop. While the cost of care and education services has doubled since 1997, according to the U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, care and education professionals have seen a minimal increase in their compensation.
Goal 4: Sonoma County employers implement family-friendly workplace policies. Creating a work environment that helps employees balance the responsibilities of work and family is smart for businesses and is good public policy. Today’s economy requires an investment in human capital. Employees are more satisfied and productive when their basic needs are met; including family leave policies, child care, flexible work hours, and an adequate wage. When employers participate; Sonoma County families have the necessary support and peace of mind to fulfill their responsibilities at work, in their homes, with their children, and in their communities. Sonoma County can become the most family-friendly community in California.
Goal 5: Sonoma County families are engaged in the education and development of their children. Children thrive when their families are knowledgeable about child development and are able to participate and support their child’s learning. Research from the evidence-based Strengthening Families framework indicates: “An understanding of parenting strategies and child development helps parents understand what to expect and how to provide what children need during each developmental phase.” Additionally children with parents who are involved in their schools tend to have fewer behavioral problems and better academic performance, and are more likely to complete high school than those whose parents are not involved. Family engagement is an essential component of care and education programs.
For any Needs Assessments prior to 2014, please contact CCPC staff at (707) 524-2639.