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State Funds Go to Inglewood Schools, Gardena YMCA : Day Care for Latchkey Children Receives Boost

March 09, 1986|BOB WILLIAMS | Times Staff Writer

The Inglewood Unified School District and the Gardena YMCA are among 44 public and private agencies in the county that will participate in a state-funded program designed to reduce the number of latchkey children--children who are left unattended while their parents work.

Money for the program, which will primarily benefit low-income families, was appropriated by the Legislature last year as part of Gov. George Deukmejian's workfare program. Child-care facilities run by public and private agencies in Los Angeles County will receive about $5 million.

Inglewood's share of the allocation will be $254,864, according to the state Department of Education, which is administering the program. The Gardena YMCA will receive $112,250.

In Inglewood, school Supt. Rex Fortune said the state funds will be used to expand an existing program that provides after-school care for about 300 children at five of the district's 14 elementary schools. Parents pay $1 an hour for the service.

Only Half Served

Fortune said the program benefits only about half of the district's children who need supervision before or after the regular school day.

"We have had parents pleading with us to offer additional day care, but without state funding the district could not possibly provide all of the service that is needed," Fortune said.

Administrator Evangeline Lewis, who supervises the Inglewood district's latchkey programs, said even parents who can afford private day-care centers often have to wait up to a year to enroll their children.

Although the state-funded program is not limited to children from low-income families, Lewis said that first consideration will be given to working parents who cannot afford standard fees for child care.

Can Care for All

"But our studies indicate that we will be able to provide care . . . to all of the children who need it," she said.

At the Gardena YMCA, executive director Dave Cardenas said the state funds will enable the chapter to almost double the number of youngsters in its existing program. He said about 70 children are now enrolled.

Cardenas said that "there is certainly an overwhelming need" for child care in the Gardena-Carson area. He cited surveys that indicate that fewer than 5% of so-called latchkey children are receiving day care.

The San Pedro chapter of the YMCA was among South Bay agencies that submitted proposals, but did not receive state funding this year. Spokesman John Swift said the chapter, like most others, puts a heavy emphasis on day-care programs and would have welcomed additional funding, particularly for low-income families.

Few Applied

Most school districts in the South Bay apparently did not apply for state latchkey funds this year. Some said their communities already had adequate child-care services. Others said they lacked classroom space for the programs.

State Schools Supt. Bill Honig termed the program, which will allocate $15.3 million a year over the next decade, "a small but significant milestone in our efforts to address the needs of 800,000 latchkey children in California who go unattended each day before and after school."

Honig said 158 agencies throughout the state should start receiving money later this month. The program is expected to serve about 16,000 children, about half of whom will receive subsidized care.

Staff writer Michele L. Norris contributed to this article.

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