The constituency for child care has materialized very quickly in recent years. No wonder. According to the Assembly Office of Research, 43% of California children under 6 and 54% of children 6- to 11-years-old have mothers in the labor force. Nationally, census data indicate that the number of mothers who rely on licensed or other organized child care jumped 9% in a three-year period of the 1980s, according to the RAND Corp. That's a change that might have been expected over a much longer period--say, 15 years--and it portends great changes in society, RAND says.
California's child-care experts say they expect 1990 census figures to verify their informal assessment that changes are even more rapid in this state than in the rest of the nation. They estimate that at present there's at least a 500,000 shortfall in licensed day-care spaces--about 150,000 of them in Los Angeles County. In Orange County, where there are more than half a million children under 14 years old, there are only about 60,000 licensed day-care slots available.
All the experts agree that the worst shortages are for infants and young school children.
Many approaches will be needed to deal with this problem. One of them--Proposition 151 on the Nov. 6. ballot--deserves voter support.