California childcare providers struggle to stay alive

In-home childcare providers say they’re struggling to keep their business alive.

Hundreds of Bay Area childcare providers closed their doors in 2020, as many parents worked from home and watched their children on their own during the pandemic. 

According to the Century Foundation, more than 70,000 childcare programs nationwide are projected to close. This is partly due to the expiration of the federal COVID-19 pandemic support program that kept many centers open.

On top of money issues, daycare programs are competing with free Transitional Kindergarten. Some Bay Area childcare providers are worried that when the state lowers the age range for TK in fall of 2025, a lot of families will choose to start their kids' schooling early.      

"Before we would have children start at an infant age. They would age out around 4 ½ or 5 going into kindergarten," said Stephanie Ramos, a Concord childcare provider. "Now they're aging out around three and a half or four when they’re starting to go into transitional kindergarten."

There is a limit to the number of children daycare programs can accept.

"I've had friends that have wanted to enroll their child into a daycare, a good daycare, and because of the limitations on the number of children they can have at a certain age, there's no there's no room for them," said Brook Castro, an East Bay Area parent.

In-home providers argue their services offer more opportunities for one-on-one lesson interactions. In comparison, a child may be one of a dozen students in TK.

"They still need the environment of the home. They need the environment of a small, caring group that will expand their life, their compassion, and their kindness for others," said Karen Shaver, owner of Shaver Family Childcare. "When they're put in a bigger group with a lot of the older kids, their learning is too fast." 

Organizations that support TK say it's important that parents have choices when deciding where to send their kids.

"The universal preschool was seen as a solution to make sure all children had access to preschool because not every child enrolls in a preschool program, and it's and the preschool is one of the key indicators for kids being successful as they enter school age, because it provides many learning opportunities," said John Jones, executive director of CocoKids.

California has one of the most ambitious plans for universal preschool in the nation. By fall 2025, TK eligibility is set to extend to all 4-year-olds. 

The goal is to provide a two-year kindergarten program to prepare children earlier for elementary school.