State launches resource center for beleaguered child care industry

By: - February 23, 2022 6:15 am

Sen. Jacky Rosen and Rep. Susie Lee greet children at the Nevada Strong Start Child Care Services Center on Feb. 2, 2022. (Photo: Sen. Jacky Rosen’s office)

For Anitra Lott, it started with her grandson.

Someone needed to watch him during the day, so she stepped up, as family often does. But then friends of the family began approaching her and saying they were having trouble finding child care. They asked if she could help them out too. Lott saw the potential to become a licensed in-home child care provider, and she decided to pursue it.

Making her newfound dream a reality would take almost two years.

“You don’t have somebody to, like, guide you through the steps,” Lott says of navigating paperwork, training, insurance and other issues she had to sort out. “You can’t just jump out here and do everything. … It was just, like, a lot of little things that I didn’t know.”

Lott eventually established her Kingdoms Daycare and Preschool and is now able to watch up to six children, a capacity set by the state based on the size of her home. In doing so, she made a tiny improvement in Nevada, where as of 2018 72% of children lived in a child care desert.

For others thinking about following in Lott’s footsteps, the process will hopefully be smoother.

On Tuesday, the state opened the Nevada Strong Start Child Care Services Center (CCSC), a one-stop hub for future and current child care providers, as well as parents and guardians. The idea is for providers and parents to have a centralized place to turn to for all things child care.

Specific supports that will be offered for providers include networking opportunities, small business loans, and help navigating the licensing process. Meanwhile, parents can get referrals to child care providers and secure subsidies that make child care affordable. The resource center is designed to help facility-based centers, in-home providers and even people who provide child care for their personal network (known in the industry as “family, friend, and neighbor care”).

The public-private partnership is funded by the Nevada Division of Welfare and Supportive Services and federal relief funding provided through the American Rescue Plan. But it has long been a goal of state administrators who acknowledged the need for additional and higher quality child care and early childhood education across the state.

The resource hub is located at Flamingo and Spencer roads in Las Vegas. A second hub is expected to open in Reno sometime this year. An online hub is also expected to launch.

Lott expects she’ll benefit from the resource center, which will offer ongoing training opportunities and other resources for existing providers. Her new dream is to open her own standalone facility where she could care for even more children.

“I can come here and get the guidance I need,” she said. “That’s great.”

The state has partnered with a number of private entities to provide resources at the center. One, Wonderschool, has been described as the “Airbnb of preschools” and is a platform that can help small providers with things like curriculum, accounting and other operational issues.

The grand-opening event on Tuesday included remarks from Gov. Steve Sisolak and three members of Nevada’s congressional delegation — Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto and Jacky Rosen and Rep. Susie Lee.

“This hub could not open soon enough,” said Lee.

The congresswoman, who prior to her political career ran a nonprofit that supported at-risk children, noted that infant care in Nevada is nearly $5,500 more expensive than in-state college tuition.

Marty Elquist of The Children’s Cabinet, which coordinated the creation of the resource center, noted there are myriad issues with the child care industry in the United States. A lack of providers is one thing the state hopes it can address with the new resource center. Other issues, like ensuring child care workers make a living wage or making child care affordable for all, may require major policy shifts.

“Those that care and educate our children should be paid a wage that is commensurate with the responsibility for caring for human beings during a developmental period where 90% of brains develop,” said Elquist.

According to the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment at UC Berkeley, the median hourly wage for a child care worker in Nevada was just $10.62 in 2019.

Elquist continued, “Today’s a new day. It’s a start. Child care is broken in our country. I think we all know that and COVID has exposed our fractured system. Parents cannot afford to pay what it actually costs to provide quality care and we can no longer subsidize that cost on the backs of our early childhood workforce.”

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April Corbin Girnus
April Corbin Girnus

April Corbin Girnus is an award-winning journalist with a decade of media experience. She has been a beat writer at Las Vegas Sun, a staff writer at LEO Weekly, web editor of Las Vegas Weekly and a blogger documenting North American bike share systems’ efforts to increase ridership in underserved communities. An occasional adjunct journalism professor, April steadfastly rejects the notion that journalism is a worthless major. Amid the Great Recession, she earned a B.A. in journalism from the University of Nevada Las Vegas, where she served as editor-in-chief of the student newspaper. She later earned an M.A. in media studies and a graduate certificate in media management from The New School for Public Engagement. A stickler about municipal boundary lines, April enjoys teaching people about unincorporated Clark County. She grew up in Sunrise Manor and currently resides in Paradise with her husband, three children and one mutt.

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