If you scroll through the local Healdsburg Mom’s group on Facebook you’ll see a common thread inquiring about childcare leads. With the cost of living in Sonoma County being 78% higher than the US average, it requires many families in the area to have a dual-income household.
Erin Gore, 36, found herself in the childcare crunch when she was expecting her first child in 2017. Finding a qualified provider that was affordable and had room for an infant was hard to come by.
“I couldn’t believe how limited my options were,” she said. “After a prolonged search, I was able to get one of only 14 licensed infant spots in the area.”
Gore was lucky to get a spot, but the waitlists are getting longer as the need exceeds the demand. According to a 2019 report issued by the Child Care Planning Council of Sonoma County (4C’s) and the Sonoma County Office of Education, the county suffers a shortage of almost 5,000 spaces across all ages. According to First 5 Sonoma County, full-time/full-day preschool averages $12,960 a year in Sonoma County, and $13,872 for center-based infant care consuming roughly 17 percent of the county’s average median income of $82,009. For those who make less than the median, there is financial assistance, but its availability is sparse. The 2019 report states that 3,100 infants qualify for subsidized childcare but only 445 spaces are available.
“After the 2017 wildfires, First 5 Sonoma County made a grant to Community Child Care Council (4Cs) to help build back the 500 licensed child care slots we lost,” said Angie Dillon-Shore, executive director at First 5. “We’re seeing positive results — a number of new family childcare home businesses have been established in Santa Rosa and we want to expand those efforts in Healdsburg through supporting Corazón. Even before the Tubbs Fire, northern Sonoma County was suffering from child care shortages and now it’s been exacerbated. We’ve seen how natural disasters disrupt our infrastructure and economy and we need to help remove the barriers to childcare. Plus, establishing new home-based child care businesses is also economic development in itself.”
Corazón is hoping to put a dent in the childcare shortage in the area through a partnership with SRJC, the City of Healdsburg, 4Cs of Sonoma County and SoCo AdultEd, by launching the “Infant and Early Childhood Workforce Development Program” at the Healdsburg Community Center starting in January 2020.
“This is a workforce and economic development issue because, without childcare, dual working households cannot find safe and reliable childcare to be able to work and participate in our local economy,” said Tallia Hart, CEO of the Healdsburg Chamber of Commerce, on why the program is needed in Sonoma County.
The program is for adults age 18 and older, who are interested in getting trained and licensed to be a family childcare provider, either in an in-home daycare setting, private nanny, or those wanting to work towards an early childhood education teaching credential. It will be taught in both English and Spanish and there will be free childcare for those in the program with kids age 0 to 5. Low wage earners, who can’t afford to take off work for the program, will be paid for their time to complete the program.
The course will cover Child/Infant Development, Curriculum Development, State Licensing and CPR/First Aid certification. Financial incentives will be offered for attendance and first aid certification will be offered for free. The class will run from Jan. 16 through the first week of June, on Thursdays from 8:45 am to 2 pm.
Corazón is able to offer these financial incentives via generous grants from Kaiser Permanente and First 5 Sonoma County. The City of Healdsburg is providing free classroom space at the Healdsburg Community Center.
The program will take 60 students and they are accepting applications now. Please contact Wendy Garvcia at 707-527-4253 at or stop by Corazón’s office in Room 13 at the Healdsburg Community Center for more information.
-Submitted by Ariel Kelley, Corazon Healdsburg