Need to find child care services in Douglas County?
Call the Kansas Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies at (877) 678-2548.
Based on area code, type of care needed and the age of the child, a list of registered providers will be generated.
Julie Henderson knows that she’s one of the lucky ones. After she has her baby boy in May, she knows she can return to work secure in the fact that she has quality child care.
Henderson’s employer, Lawrence Athletic Club North, 3201 Mesa Way, provides child care. When Henderson, 28, returns from her maternity leave to her job as a sales representative, she can walk right in, take the baby up to the gym’s on-site day care and head straight to her office. Easy as pie.
“It makes it so much easier because a lot of people don’t have that option,” Henderson says. “It does make it a lot easier to actually have it there for you, not have to worry about ‘who am I going to look for?’”
But those are questions for Lawrence residents in need of child care — and there are a lot of them. Each year, there are about 1,150 babies born at Lawrence Memorial Hospital, yet there are only 78 child care spots for infants at registered Douglas County child care centers. There are a number of spots at the 250 or so local home care centers, but still, the numbers don’t add up, says Anna Jenny of the Douglas County Child Development Association.
“It’s pretty, well ... common knowledge that there’s not enough slots,” Jenny says. “And unfortunately a lot of our really small, really vulnerable children end up in care that is not registered, not licensed — it’s just inadequate.”
Why are there so few spots? It’s all about the money. State regulations allow only three infants to one care provider in centers, and the number of infants in home care affects the number of children of another age the provider can have. This means that by providing infant care, centers and home care providers lose money. It’s much more lucrative to take more older kids — there can be 16 school-age children per one care-giver at centers — than have just a few, more high-maintenance babies. All this can mean a nightmare for finding care if you don’t start early enough, says Shelly Platz-Davidson.
Platz-Davidson has 28 years experience in the child care field and is director at Stepping Stones Inc., 1100 Wakarusa Drive. The center has 17 infant spots and often a nine- to 12-month wait.
“My line is that you tell your husband you’re pregnant and then call me,” Platz-Davidson says.
She says that in her experience, many first-time mothers don’t think about child care until the baby has arrived. And many times, that’s too late.
Jenny is quite concerned about any sort of procrastination in finding child care. She knows that even women who go through all the right channels and begin looking early may end up without child care because of the nature of the beast. This leaves her full of nightmarish thoughts about women leaving their babies with neighbors unqualified to provide care just because they have no other option.
“The downside to this whole process is, of course, the vacancies,” Jenny says. “And if you are a pregnant mom looking for care down the road, then the list you get is going to have the vacancies today, it’s not going to have vacancies when you need care, but if you wait until you need care ... there may not be the vacancy you want. So it’s kind of a catch-22.”
Another concern is the high cost of child care. A 2007 survey by the DCCDA found that the average cost per month for infant care was $786. The average cost of care for toddlers and 2-year-olds wasn’t much better at $633.47 and $626.90, respectively. For child care in a home, the average cost for a child up to 18 months was $524 per month.
The DCCDA does have a child care tuition scholarship program that low-income families can apply for, Jenny says.
Henderson says cost is another reason she feels lucky to have the care available at LAC.
“I feel sorry for the ones though that are actually out there struggling trying to find it because I know that it is hard,” Henderson says. “I’ve looked into it, but I knew I didn’t have to actually stress out about it, though. I’m pretty lucky on that part for sure.”
Questions to ask when choosing child care
• Are you allowed to visit the facility at any time?
• Are the policies about nutrition, toileting, napping and discipline consistent with your own?
• Do caregivers have first aid and CPR training?
• Are meals and snacks served? What are they like?
• If there is a TV, how much time is spent watching it?
• Is the facility safe? Clean? Secure? Free of health hazards?
• Is there someone who has used this service I can call?
Source: The Douglas County Child Development Association