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A Child's Home Away From Home : Day-Care Providers Come in Many Forms

June 06, 1991|SUSAN GEMBROWSKI

Away-from-home day care for children in North County is offered in a variety of forms. There are care-givers who work out of their homes, group centers, extended hours in schools, YMCA and Boys and Girls Club programs, Head Start and migrant worker projects, and even a few child-care centers in the workplace.

Here is a sampling of day-care programs in place or planned in North County:

FAMILY DAY-CARE HOMES

About 3,000 in North County "The parents call me their children's surrogate mother," said Ruth Hewitt, a licensed family day-care provider in San Marcos. "If I have a child full-time, that's 50 hours a week."

Hewitt accommodates children of different ages in her home, to make it more like a family, she said. She now has one infant and five other children from 1 to 4 years old.

Hewitt is a member of San Marcos' "Registered Safe House Block Parent Program," which was begun last year. Participants, who are all licensed child-care providers, display a smiling sunflower face in the windows of their homes to signal to children that help is available within. The providers participate in a city orientation to prepare them for emergencies. Currently, 42 homes are registered, according to San Marcos child-care coordinator Marti Tucker.

In Del Mar, Kathryn Hamilton operates an in-home program that is structured more like a day-care center. Her Del Mar Montessori preschool is licensed for 12 children, ages three to six.

Teachers of gymnastics, music, drama and dance come to the home on a set schedule.

Some children receive child care for the entire day, from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Others participate in the "school" portion of the program, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. or from 9 a.m. to noon, Hamilton said.

There are about 3,000 licensed family day-care providers in North County, according to Dana Lovelace, North County licensing program supervisor.

Oceanside has the largest number with 348, followed closely by Escondido with 345.

Although prices vary widely, the average cost of per child in a family day-care home in coastal areas is $97 a week for infants and $86 for school age. In inland areas, the average cost in $85 a week for infants, $79 a week for school-age kids.

Small family day-care homes are licensed for up to six children, with one provider, and larger homes can take up to 12 children, with two providers. There is no fee for state licensing, and providers are licensed for three years.

All family day-care providers must be fingerprinted to qualify for state licensing.

"People need a license if they care for more than one family in their home, although relatives are exempt," Lovelace said.

CHILD-CARE CENTERS

About 170 in North County Two- and 3-year-olds at the Mulberry Children's Center in San Marcos gather in a circle to listen to a story, followed by a morning snack. The 4- and 5-year-olds learn Spanish and sign language, along with other enrichment activities like pre-reading and pre-math.

Nadine Abbott and Doris Lipska are the owners/directors of the center, which is licensed for 75 children.

"There is a greater concern (from parents) in the last four years about the quality of the program than in the last 20 years," Lipska said. "Parents take time off from work to show up for activities. That wouldn't have happened 10 years ago."

There are about 170 licensed child-care centers in North County, according to Paula Leard, Childcare Resource Service director.

The centers range in size from the Voorhis Preschool in Fallbrook, which accommodates 10 children at a time, to the Carmel Mountain Preschool in Rancho Penasquitos, which has room for 225 at a time.

Although many centers are small local businesses, some are part of larger chains. Among those is Children's World Learning Centers, which operates in nine locations in North County. Each center typically has spaces for 144 children.

Prices at centers in North County vary, but the average cost along the coast is $112 a week for infants and $73 for school age children. In inland areas, the average cost is $108 a week for infants and $63 for school age children.

CHILD-CARE AT SCHOOL

Offered in most districts All 16 elementary schools in the Poway Unified School District offer a before and after-school child-care program.

Some 1,500 students in kindergarten through fifth grade attend the program, which is open from 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. during the school year, and during the winter, spring and summer school vacations.

No district funds are used for the program, said Leslie Fausset, assistant superintendent for elementary schools.

Parents pay a flat monthly rate of $180 for first through fifth graders, $200 for kindergartners, and $260 in the summer, when the child is in the program the entire day.

"The goal (of the program) is to expand and extend the child's educational learning beyond the school day," Fausset said. "Coordinators design their own program (at each site), but the activities are structured most of the time. Every program has homework time built into it."

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