Child Care Indicators, 1998—Part I
California's childcare system has long been comprised of a vast and vibrant collection of service providers, community organizations, and activists. Decentralization and diversity represent rich strengths within the childcare community.
But this decentralized history also has resulted in limited planning capacity in Sacramento and a paucity of sound data on the supply of, and the rise in family demand for, childcare. Never has the need been greater for solid data on the supply of and demand for childcare—indicators that are useful to local and state-level planners and policymakers.
Parents' rising propensity to enroll their children in preschool programs, climbing maternal employment rates, and welfare reform all contribute to accelerating family demand for childcare. Federal and state governments have responded dramatically: public support for childcare and preschool programs will double in California between 1996 and 1999, reaching almost $1.8 billion in annual public funding.
But little information has been available which allows local or state agencies to target new monies on communities where supply is most scarce. We have not understood how childcare supply is distributed among counties or among different neighborhoods within counties. No one knows how much childcare demand will increase as a result of welfare reform, or what it would take to equalize access to limited childcare programs.
Child Care Indicators 1998 attempts to remedy the impoverished state of data. These are preliminary figures, providing early indicators of childcare supply and demand for all zip codes statewide. These numbers do not lead directly to any policy or budget decision. Local planners and activists must consider zip-code level data carefully applying their local knowledge about supply and likely growth in demand. Zip codes do not reflect local residents' own definition of their community.
Later this year we will publish a more complete set of indicators and county-level averages for each indicator. In addition, maps are presently being designed to more vividly display selected supply and demand indicators. The second round of indicators will include data on working-poor families (living below 75 percent of the state median income) and new counts of childcare and preschool staff for zip codes, based on census data.
The brief indicators guide which follows describes each of the 32 supply and demand statistics reported in the present data tables.