Searching through the Glendale yellow pages, the divorced single mother found no listings under child care.
After going through two baby sitters who she said charged too much and putting the children on waiting lists, she was able to enroll them in an after-school program run by the school district.
The mother, who requested anonymity, still had to leave the children waiting alone outside their school in the early morning so she could get to work. In the evening, she would rush home to get them. The day-care center closed at 6 p.m. and charged $10 for every 10 minutes she was late.
Last month, the cost finally became too much for the mother, who was making only $19,000 a year. She was paying more than $100 a month for child care and couldn't pay her bills. That was when she decided to send her children away.
They now live with their father in Germany.
"I miss them," she said. "I'm going through hell right now without them, but being a low-income single parent, I just couldn't handle it."
Local child care advocates say her case is not unusual. Citing waiting lists at day-care centers of up to two years and armed with statistics they say show Glendale is significantly short of child care options at all economic levels, they charge that city government and local businesses have failed to meet the challenge of a rapidly growing city and a work force now populated by almost as many women as men.
"Child care is at such a crisis level right now. It's a crisis for parents who can't find it. It's a crisis for centers that can't find good staff. It's a crisis that simply has to be dealt with, because the new work force we're seeing isn't going to disappear," said Pam Kisor, director of the Child Care Center at Glendale Adventist Medical Center.
More than 2,500 of the 16,000 children in Glendale under 12 are in need of child care, according to a 1986 study by Crystal Stairs, a state-funded resource and referral agency in Pasadena. A United Way study conducted last year found that of 12,125 Glendale children from kindergarten through sixth grade, child care centers in the city lacked 3,318 spaces for the 3,959 children of working parents needing care.
Glendale officials feel that the city has been progressive in its approach to child care because of its involvement with the Glendale Employers Child Care Consortium, an innovative joint public/private venture between the city, the school district and three private firms.
But, after 10 months of operation, the consortium is in financial trouble because of high operating costs. The Glendale school district recently pulled out as operator of the program.
Child care advocates point out that its program only has facilities for 90 children and is geared primarily to employees of consortium members, whereas the number of children in Glendale needing care is far greater.
There are now 34 licensed child care centers in Glendale and 44 people licensed for in home day care, said Marjorie Morris, executive director of the state-funded Child Care Resource Center of the San Fernando Valley, which covers Glendale. Fewer than 300 of those spaces are state-subsidized, which makes the outlook for low-income parents particularly bleak, she said. Waiting lists at most centers average more than 200 people at a time and parents can wait up to two years for a space, Morris said.
Morris said the number of people providing unlicensed in-home day care is probably twice the number of licensed homes, but said no one knows for sure. Most unlicensed care is provided by extended family members, she said, but some unlicensed care is in facilities that are inadequate for children.
"A lot of places around . . . you or I might not like to use for our children," she said. "There are . . . minimal standards."
More than half the licensed child care centers in Glendale today existed 10 years ago, Morris said. But the number of requests the San Fernando service receives for child care has more than tripled in that same period. Morris said the service has received an average of 1,000 calls a month this year.
For their part, elected officials in Glendale think that local government should limit its involvement in child care. Mayor Ginger Bremberg cited the city's involvement in the consortium as proof that the city has addressed parents' needs and said she thinks that the demand for child care exists mainly among mothers from high-income families who don't need to work.
"I don't see any reason why tax dollars should go to help yuppie women get BMWs and a $350,000 house for status symbols when the tax dollars have many other things that they can be used for," Bremberg said. "I don't think it's the government's responsibility to provide child care for that kind of couple. We're not going to do it, it's an absolute bottomless pit."
Need Is Characteristic