As we celebrate Labor Day, I want to take the opportunity to recommit to improving the working conditions of Irvine residents by increasing the availability of child care.
Too often, parents in Irvine are forced to choose between going to work and caring for their children.
Nearly 2,500 Irvine families do not have adequate child care, with the most acute shortage for children under 2 years-old and children 6 to 12 years-old.
I have been working with City staff, my Community Services Commissioner Lauren Johnson-Norris, developers, childcare providers, and the business community to increase child care through an overall city child care development plan.
Irvine Community Services Commissioner Lauren Johnson-Norris has eloquently addressed this issue:
Parents are being advised to apply for child care and get on waiting lists while they are expecting a child and still report waiting several months to a year to secure a spot for their child. Infant care has been identified as the most challenging child care to secure, especially considering the important low provider-to-child ratio mandated by state law.
Some Irvine parents report putting their families on lists and simply never hearing of an opening.
The consequence of the Irvine childcare gap is that families are forced to make unanticipated career and financial decisions. Parents report having to make the sometimes difficult decision to have one parent stay home, even where the families was previously a dual-income family.
Statistically, it is increasingly difficult to return to the workforce the longer a worker is away.
In addition, the result is not only lost income while the child is infancy, but potentially for years to come. For a single parent, the situation is even worse — and may be untenable if family care or care outside the city is unavailable.
A critical part of any thriving community is safe, professional, reliable, and affordable preschool and child care. Preschool has been shown to positively affect children’s social skills and prepare them for the rigors of K-12. Children who miss the opportunity for preschool because of inadequate child care in a community start kindergarten at a disadvantage.
Ultimately, the negative effects of unavailable or inadequate preschool or childcare extend beyond individual children and families to the community as a whole.
It is time to address the shortage of child care for families in Irvine. Increased child care through designated private sites as part of an overall city development plan, access to childcare in houses of worship, and the option of city early childhood education must be part of this plan.
Families in Irvine are looking to the City Council for solutions.
What kind of waiting periods are you facing right now for child care and preschool in Irvine?
What kinds of improvements do you want to see in the availability of child care and preschool in Irvine?