Child care needs to make a comeback

The playground of the Child Care Development Cnter, which was once filled with the laughter of children lies empty and desolate now. (La’Mesha Simpson/Clarion)

By La’Mesha Simpson | Staff Writer

Reopening the Child Development Center on the Citrus College campus should be a priority.

As a single mother on a mission to graduate and build a better life for my son, and myself I believe it is critical that colleges make affordable child care available to their students.

Planning to return to school in 2012, I was faced with many difficult decisions. A single mother, with minimal income and no car, I wondered how I would be able to return to college and get my son into quality daycare.

Passionate about my role as a mother, I am particular about the quality of the environment and the level of care my son is placed in.

I was excited about the possible reality that I would be able to enroll at Citrus College and have my son close by on the same campus, in a good place that would nurture his growth and development.

The first five years of life are the most important in a child’s development.

Most children experience detachment issues that can interfere with their overall development. For children of single parents, separation anxiety can be especially acute.

Childcare facilities are designated for children too young to enter kindergarten.

The option of having your child on campus gives student parents a relief. Assured that they can get to their child within minutes, on the same campus and gives the child the same reassurance and peace of mind.

Over the course of a few months, I spoke with several other Citrus College mothers and listened as each praised the daycare program that used to be sponsored by the college.

They encouraged me to enroll at Citrus, motivating me to feel very confident about the decision I was making.

I was saddened to learn the 30-year daycare program was terminated as of June 15, 2012. The first question that came to my mind was “Why would they get rid of something so significant?”

Budget cuts. The program was largely funded by the California Department of Education, slashed its contribution to the program by 42 percent cumulatively over 2010-2011.

To help keep the center open, Citrus College had picked up some of the extra tab, contributing $600,000 in 2012, about a third of the child care center’s total expenditures.

In the midst a great recession the college was experiencing financial issues, including a $5.7 million reduction from its $55 million budget.

The board of trustees subsequently voted unanimously to shut the program down.

California has 112 community colleges; of those 91 of them have child care centers on campus.

For a college whose mission is to assist students along the education path to graduation, you would think the daycare program would be untouched, as it aids single parents and disrupts the dropout statistics.

There are more than 4 million women attending two-year public institutions or community colleges, and more than 1 million of them are mothers, according to a 2011 report by The American Association of University Women.

Student mother’s who have many obligations, which makes it a struggle to stay enrolled.

Compared with students who do not have children, parents are more likely to drop out of school, and they most often cite caregiving responsibilities and low income as obstacles to achieving academic success.

Studies show that in most states, average childcare center fees for an infant are higher than a year’s tuition and fees at a public college.

The growing costs of childcare are unmanageable for most student parents. Given this fact, colleges should make it policy to offer child quality care services to those furthering their education.

When the Citrus College Child Development facility was closed, Carol Horton, then the college’s vice president of finance and administrative services, said she expected that it would reopen until the state began recovering from the economic downturn.

It has now been two years and the economy is improving. It is time to revisit this issue.

Ultimately the daycare center on Citrus College campus should be brought back to life. With the emphasis of pursuing education, as this nation and this college promotes, it is essential to provide support to the single parents who are actively and obviously working to provide better lives for their families.

Children who are able to go to school along with the parent allows them opportunity to see their parents striving to achieve educational goals, something that they will take on themselves, and carry throughout their own lives. The example must be prevalent.

Reopening the doors of the daycare center will add to the overall success of this college, which is ultimately the mission of the college. More graduates, less time spent in school, and more success!