At-work child care rare offering in private world

Access to child care is tough for many Northern Nevada parents simply because of the cost.

The problem hinges on a fundamental Catch-22: Good child care is too expensive, and affordable child care is not always up to snuff.

"Basically, child-care service providers are some of the lowest paid in our country," explained Becky Carter-Steele, program coordinator for the University of Nevada's Campus Child-Care Connections.

"And for it to be affordable for working mothers, you can't charge what it's worth. I don't think in our country we value our young children enough."

So without the access afforded to above average wage earners, where can parents go when work compromises a child's upbringing?

In Northern Nevada, few companies provide their own child care, though a handful have programs designed to supplement working parents for the hefty expense.

It's an issue of cost for companies juggling the needs of their employees with what has developed into a quagmire of expensive regulations and insurance. While costs vary from provider to provider, the weekly tab for a licensed day-care facility can cost hundreds. Single and blue-collar parents have to stretch their dollars to meet the budgetary demand.

Carter-Steele said she is lucky to be working at the child-care center for the savings she gets on the cost of caring for her 3-year-old son.

"The center is accredited and it has less turnover, so my son has been with same provider for three years," she said. "The quality I get would be $500 a week. There's no way a lot of people can afford that."

While the cost of UNR child-care services is supplemented, one-on-one child care is a rare offering, and group care starts at approximately $90 a week per child in local private care centers, said Dustin Boothe, a child-care inspector with Carson City's Health department.

Preschool, which ranges from four to six hours a week, means an additional cost of $65-$85 a week.

"The rough estimate for regular child care, is up to $90 a week per child," he said. "Infant care will be a little more. Usually $90 -$120 dollars a week, because they require more one-on-one attention."

That potential cost may be preventing the incorporation of day-care centers into many of Northern Nevada's work places. International Gaming Technology has one in Reno. So does Washoe Health Alliance. St. Mary's Health Network opened its care center, with the ability to take care of 110 children, this month. Although there are 29 licensed day care providers in Carson City, no businesses are licensed for on-site day care.

"I've had a lot of businesses approach me about it, but none of them followed through," Boothe said.

A high employee count seems to be a prerequisite for implementation of an affordable child-care program.

Judy Davis, Washoe Health Alliance spokeswoman, said the hospital has had an in-house day care center since 1989 to service its approximately 3,600 employees.

"We are licensed for 97 children and I think we are at capacity most of the time," she said.

To run the center takes a staff of 28 employees. Washoe Health Systems charges $98-$125 a week for the service, a heavily subsidized fee.

"It's hard to quantify how much it costs," Davis said. "But we feel it is a critical component to retention (of employees)."

Carter-Steele said insurance costs are heavy, and regulations require supervision. For five to 10 children, she said, three to five care workers are required.

In Nevada, day-care providers need a minimum six semester hours, including child development, and a high school diploma to be eligible for a license as a director. Licensure also requires continuing education -- 12 hours a year -- in the child-care field.


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