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Six cities explore private child care solutions.

In our largest gathiring to date, local officials from six cities tackled the problem of how cities can promote public/private sector involvement in child care.

Municipal officials recognize that the search for a healthy, secure, and affordable child care environment is often a never ending quest. With that in mind, community leaders from Aspen, Boulder, and Denver, Colo., and Austin, Tex., Cambridge, Mass., and Longview, Wash., spent the weekend of April 24 developing strategies and formulating actions plans for implementation in their hometown.


NLC developed the roundtable concept as a means of helping cities to explore new ways of advocating child care in their communities. The notion of convening a cadre of local officials to clarify municipal roles, learn from each other, and create an action plan for implementation seems to be workable solution for getting ideas out and tasks accomplished over a short period of time.

Led by child care experts Dennis Hudson of Child Care Planning Associates and Nancy Noble, Child Dare Coordinator for the city of Irvine, each team was responsible for working through a series of four sessions.

Beginning with the "job-alike" session, community leaders with similar or the same job shared information about their city's care initiative from their viewpoint. Each session was a progressive step towards the final outcome of developing their cities' action plan.

Denver officials served as host of the roundtable which was held on April 24-25. Along with the Denver group, mayors of the participating cities each selected a team of four or more key players. Inorder to provide technical assistance to each city team, the number of participating cities was limited.

Participants were encouraged to share their child care concerns and indicate how they were being addressed; define their cities' child care problem by: indicating what services are available, identifying the gaps in service delivery, determining greatest concerns of parents in their community, and identifying, key players currently involved in child care issues; explore options for solving the problem by: looking at barriers specific to their community, identifying existing opportunities, setting reasonable goals, determining the type of assistance needed (ie., technical, financial, bureaucratic) and deciding the role(s) of key players in helping the community achieve its goals; and develop an action plan to take back to their community by creating workable solutions of which some ideas may be implemented immediately and other strategies to be developed over a period of time.

The community leaders returned to their cities with exciting new approaches and workable solutions for their community's child care initiatives.

Aspen, Colo.

This team will recommend the concept of Before and After school care for preschool and school age children. Other recommendations included quality, affordable weekend/evening care for resort workers, hospitals and police department and conducting a needs assessment to identify among other things, what child care needs are currently being addressed and who should be subsidized. Also suggested was the need broaden base of support to include regular contact with the city council in order to establish a city child care policy and five year plan.

Austin, Tex.

As their goal, this team set out to expand the advisory group to provide for equal representation of all stakeholders, such as the city, county, business, service providers and consumers. They also will take back to their community recommendations for increased staff support for initiatives; development and implementation of strategies to involve the business community; and development of a strategy for public education and awareness, to include monthly presentation by the Child Care Council to the City Council, speakers bureau, media coverage and clergy involvement; and on going business consortium.

Denver, Colo.

Team leaders from this community will develop a means for establishing workable solutions to determine the greates need wiht respect to children's ages and location of child care facilities; develop working relationships with public/private service providers; solve transportation issues; and involve the children in the process.

Longview, Wash.

The following principles were developed by this team to encourage a collaborative approach: adopt changes to zoning ordinances that would make neighborhoods more conductive to child care needs; conduct a needs assessment for Longview; develope a city council workshop to review information from this roundtable and identify partners to be involved inorder to determine direction and time line; meet with the Chamber of Commerce to explore their willingness and role as a partner; and form a city wide child care task force.

Boulder, Colo.

The Boulder team will continue to develop its matrix that will highlight 500 to 600 city services. In addition, the team will explore an affordable means of child care vouchering; infant care; before and after schools; and affordable toddler and special needs care, as well as off hours, drop-in and emergency services.

Cambridge, Mass.

This team will continue with its efforts of developing a city wide plan for child care. Their theme of "making child care a priority" is supported by the following recommendations: establish child care on the Kids Council agenda; broaden public support for child care to include client and general populous, and city officials, as well as increased visibility, perhaps a campaign; develop a child care policy for the city council and school committee; and identify other groups who may have an interest in child care, such as the Women's Commission, Chamber of Commerce and the Stabilization Committee.

The consensus of the group and as noted by Counsillor Alice Wolf of Cambridge is that all roundtable participants face the problems of supporting child care initiatives for low and moderate income families. Cities differ in how they address this issue. One general approach is to take steps, through surveys, task forces, education, and broadening involvement in this concern in general to make it clear that lack of adequate and high quality child care impacts many aspects of community and business life. Moreover, there is an increased effort to establish a link between child care and the school-readiness movement.

There was also great concern regarding the fact that child care workers are almost always underpaid, have poor benefits, such as health care, vacations, and thus tend to burn out quickly. This rapid turn over does not support the need for high quality care. The nexus between affordability for families and salaries of workers is a serious problem.

Councillor Wolf also noted as another key concern is a permanent source of funding to make day care affordable. Ideas suggested at this roundtable included: creation of a scholarship endowment fun check-off on local or state tax forms and creation of special taxing districts.

Cities such as Seattle, Minneapolis, and San Francisco have received voter approval for measures levying taxes for children's initiatives.
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Author:Kelsey, Serita R.
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Date:May 4, 1992
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