LOS ANGELES - One-quarter of Los Angeles County's children, from newborns through five years of age, are cared for on a regular basis by someone other than a parent. Furthermore, nearly one- half of all parents say it was difficult to find child care services. A recent survey sponsored by the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services (DHS), highlights the need to expand the supply of high-quality and affordable child care in the county, particularly for low-income families.
"Our findings show that a large number of young children are cared for by people other than their parents. This is important to recognize because of the critical role that early care providers play in a child's intellectual, emotional, and social development," said Jonathan E. Fielding, M.D., M.P.H., Director of Public Health and Health Officer.
The survey found significant barriers to finding and keeping child care for many families - particularly for low-income and Latino families. Among parents who reported a need for child care, 46% reported it was somewhat to very difficult to get needed care on a regular basis; 51% of single mothers reported difficulty getting needed care and, Latinos were more likely to report difficulty (56%) than were Asians (42%), African- Americans (39%) or Whites (26%). Families with lower incomes were more likely to report difficulty: 61% of families below the federal poverty level compared to 24% of families living at or above 300% of the federal poverty level.
The following reasons were reported among those who had been unable to find child care: 53% reported they could not afford it, 45% that the hours and locations did not fit their needs, 41% could not find a provider with space available, and 39% said that the quality of child care was not satisfactory.
"The availability of child care services has not kept pace with the demand for child care services in the county," said Cheryl Wold, Chief of Health Assessment and one of the study's authors. "We need more child care spaces and also to elevate the quality of the services delivered" and she acknowledged the efforts to improve both availability and quality of child care services in the county, which are highlighted in the report.
"Higher quality child care features settings that are safe, nurturing and well-trained providers, and favorable staff-to- child ratios, for example," components of child care that can directly impact a child's development and well being, Wold said.
The study reported the different types of care that parents rely on for their infants and toddlers as well as preschool-age children. As children age, more parents rely on center-based care, nursery and pre-school programs. In the early years, parents rely on home-based providers (in their own or someone else's home). From these reports, the study found that 63% of those children receiving care in another family's home were cared for by an unlicensed provider. While licensure does not ensure quality, it provides minimum standards for child safety and as well as a means for redressing complaints about providers.
Expand the number of trained providers and licensed providers
Promote accreditation by the National Association for Family Child Care and/or the National Association for the Education of Young Children
Subsidies for families and centers to maintain the supply of high-quality affordable child care across the county
The full report, "Child Care Among Young Children in Los Angeles County" can be accessed online at:
The Los Angeles County Health Survey is a population- based telephone survey of approximately 8,000 households in the County, examining health and health-related issues for adults and children. Field Research Corporation conducted the survey for DHS with support from the California Department of Health Services and the Los Angeles County Department of Public Social Services. The survey was repeated in September 1999 through April 2000 and previously in 1997.
Public Health is committed to protecting and improving the health of the nearly 10 million residents of Los Angeles County. Through a variety of programs, community partnerships and services, Public Health oversees environmental health, disease control and community and family health. Public Health comprises more than 3,800 employees and has an annual budget exceeding $465 million.