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Glendale Joins Firms in Child-Care Effort

February 23, 1986|SAM ENRIQUEZ | Times Staff Writer

A consortium of five major Glendale employers, including city government and the school district, have begun negotiations to establish the city's first cooperative child-care center for their employees.

Representatives from Glendale Federal Savings, Glendale Memorial Hospital, Verdugo Hills Hospital, the city and the Glendale Unified School District are studying a plan to use two city-owned houses near Pacific Park to provide before- and after-school care for 90 preschoolers.

Although many large firms have begun to provide child care for employees, the Glendale proposal would be one of only a handful of public-private ventures in the state. Burbank created the first such facility in 1984.

The child-care center must still receive approval from policy makers at each organization. But representatives say an agreement will probably be reached by spring and the facility may be ready in six to eight months.

Dave Ramsay, Glendale's assistant city manager, said the benefit for employers would be to reduce sick time used by parents to care for their children. Also, day care is considered an aid in recruiting and retaining employees, he said.

"We are getting more single-parent households and those with two parents working," Ramsay said.

The proposal calls for the school district to administer the employee child-care center and to provide teachers. Glendale would donate the use of houses at Riverdale Drive and Pacific Avenue that were purchased for an expansion of Pacific Park. The city subsequently canceled the expansion, and the houses were left intact.

The other tentative participants--Glendale Federal and Glendale Memorial and Verdugo Hills hospitals--would contribute cash and in-kind services. In return, employers would receive a share of child-care space for their employees' children.

Remodeling and site improvements to the two houses would cost $150,000 to $175,000, the city estimates. The cost of operating the center would be paid by weekly fees charged to employees.

"We would hope for it to be self-supporting, but we are considering that we would subsidize it somewhat," said Tom Pedersen, director of human resources at Glendale Memorial. "It probably would not be any cheaper than other child-care centers, but it would be more convenient and something employees could count on."

Pedersen said the group still must resolve questions of liability and insurance.

The Glendale League of Women Voters is expected to finish its own study this month of child-care needs in the city. League member Betty Zilmer, who is doing the research, said the consortium plan is a first step in meeting the high demand for child care in the area.

Georgia McAninch, director of the school district's child-care centers, agreed that available child care has not kept pace with demand.

Big Waiting Lists

"There are not enough facilities because now both parents are going to work to maintain a certain standard of living, and some women are making the choice of saying, 'I want to work,' " McAninch said.

From 400 to 500 children, from kindergarten through sixth grade, are on waiting lists for the district's 12 child-care centers, including ones subsidized by the state and self-supporting ones, she said. The centers, at schools throughout Glendale, can accommodate about 550 children since the opening Monday of before- and after-school programs at the La Crescenta and Lincoln elementary schools.

Citywide, an estimated 2,450 children, from infants through 12-year-olds, cannot find licensed child-care facilities, says a privately funded, two-year study by Crystal Stairs Inc., a nonprofit child-care referral agency in Los Angeles. About half the city's children younger than 6 have working mothers, and more than 63% of children 6 to 12 have working mothers, the study found.

Hard-to-Find Care

A survey last fall of 1,500 Glendale residents and community-group members found after-school youth programs and preschool child care to be the greatest unmet social need in the city, followed by job training and programs for the elderly, according to the Glendale Community Development Department.

Infant care is especially difficult to find, according to surveys conducted by Pedersen for Memorial Hospital. Part of the reason, he said, is that the state requires one teacher or aide for every four infants, twice the ratio required for older children.

"It looked to us that, by the time a person was eligible to get into an infant-care center, the child would no longer be eligible," Pedersen said.

Still to be decided is how many children of each age group would be enrolled in the center. Based on a mixture of 45 infants and 45 toddlers--children who can walk without assistance--the cost would be about $115 a week per child, McAninch said.

If the consortium is successful, a second child-care center to accommodate 143 children at the vacant Clark Junior High School would be considered, McAninch said. The remodeling of three classrooms there would cost about $100,000.

Pam Desario, a representative of Verdugo Hills, said the demand for child care is especially high among hospitals, which have predominantly female employees.

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