VAN NUYS — A plan to open a new child care cen ter at the Van Nuys Civic Center was approved unanimously Tuesday by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.
Child care advocates and elected officials said the center would help fill a need for quality, licensed care.
The $1.5-million center will serve about 70 children of county and city workers as well as local residents. Construction is scheduled to begin next February with opening planned for early 2003.
"This is an example of the county practicing what it preaches," said Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, whose office has been working on the proposed center for three years. "We're trying to move people who are dependent on public funds to work, and one of the biggest barriers is child care."
An extensive county study last year found that 200,000 more licensed spaces are needed for school-age children and more than 100,000 for children from age 6 weeks to 2 years. Low-income areas, particularly Latino communities such as Van Nuys, have the most severe shortage of affordable day care.
At the Van Nuys Civic Center--which houses government offices such as the Van Nuys Superior Court, Van Nuys police station and city clerk's office--42% of 479 employees surveyed two years ago either had children under 6 or were planning to have kids in the next five years. Of those with children, 20%, or 25 people, said they preferred on-site child care.
If the Van Nuys Civic Center had had a child care center a few years ago, registrar-recorder clerk Irene Ruiz would have used it, she said. Her daughter, now 5 and in kindergarten, attended a day care center near their home in Hollywood.
"I would have liked to have had her close to me so I could go and check on her," Ruiz said. "It will be great for the moms to have their babies close by."
One of Ruiz's colleagues, Erlinda Reyes, is expecting her second child in three months and said she hopes she can use the new center.
The center will be built at the north end of the Civic Center and will include a 7,000-square-foot building, a play yard, bathrooms, a kitchen, conference rooms and an isolation area for sick children.
Laura Escobedo of the Child Care Resource Center in Van Nuys, which refers parents to licensed providers and dispenses subsidies to eligible families, said she hopes some slots will be reserved for low-income families.
"It's a good thing for the county to do," Escobedo said. "Whether it proves to be a model or an example remains to be seen."
On Tuesday, the county opened its seventh county-owned child care facility, this one for employees at the Department of Public Social Services office in Industry. Within the next six months, the department will open another facility in Chatsworth.