Wren The heart: a house the wren took up in. One hole only wide enough for her and her cheeping generations. On the spruce limb she’s a brown flower of readiness, quick neck twisting till her breast, pale as heavy, leads down to the landing spoke. Her work is the oldest kind, accomplished in privacy, beautiful beyond confidence or travail. In, through the tight circle she manages a broomstraw. She will sew in the dark. Julia Ardery ized by the Child Care Action Campaign to build an Alliance for Better Child commitment of public resources. This coalition already includes many labor unions, churches, and professional organizations and will push for major legislation in the 100th Congress. \(Some might still remember Richard Nixon’s WORKING PARENTS and their children can not wait for federal initiatives as we en dure Reagan’s version of the Big Sleep with respect to social policy. And as a society, we pay now or we will pay later with increased family violence and neglected children who will later swell welfare roles and prison populations. Despite the lack of initiatives at the federal level, there are encouraging examples of innovative efforts at local and state levels. Task forces on child care have been formed in city after city’ across the country. In Denver, the city is the largest employer and has focused its child care efforts on its employees, initiating a pre-tax deduction for child care, a center for infant and toddler care and resource and referral services. Madison, Wisconsin, offers residents a Tuition Aid Program at city-certified day care centers or home providers. In Concord, California, the local Child Care Alliance provides up to $100 per month in matching funds to employers that contribute toward care of an employee’s child. Irvine and Seattle have initiated joint ventures with their local school districts to place child care facilities on school property where the cities subcontract with non-profit child care providers to operate preschool programs. San Francisco made history when it required downtown developers of office and hotel projects to make space available for child care or contribute $1 per square foot into an Affordable Child Care Fund. The San Francisco model represents one extreme by exacting child care space or contributions. But other cities, notably Seattle offer incentives to developers who contribute space or “in lieu of contributions for child care. Seattle, with the support of an enthusiastic mayor, has embarked on a campaign to make the city the “best place in the nation in which to raise a family.” As part of an effort called KidsPlace, the city polled children in an effort to develop an agenda around their needs. Each April Seattle city government sponsors KidsDay. They also help fund a resource and referral program \(which also relies heavily on private gram for low-moderate income parents who are employed or in job training. Seattle and a number of other cities also have established positions for full-time Child Care Coordinators. Closer to home, San Antonio followed Seattle’s lead and embarked on their own KidsDay program. And in Dallas, the Child Care Task Force developed a private, non-profit Child Care Partnership supported by Community Development Block Grant money, United Way contributions and considerable private donations. The Partnership has made child care accreditation a major priority and Dallas now has the largest number of accredited centers of any city in the United States. Austin’s Child Care Task Force led to the creation of an Austin Child Care Commission. In a manner typical of Austin, the organization is long on public participation and short on money. But the Commission is working with church providers and private sector employers and seeking funds for a child care resource center. In Houston, the Committee for Private Sector Initiatives focuses on afterschool programs to meet the needs of “latchkey” children and, in partnership with the Houston Public Library, provides a resource and referral service for employers. At the state level there is also promising activity. The Attorney General’s office has plans for on-site child care when they get the go-ahead on new facilities and the General Land Office is also planning to offer on-site child care. These public agency responses to child care needs should be applauded and encouraged. Family-sensitive policies need to be put on the agendas of both public and private employers. Pre-tax deductions for child care, flextime and job sharing are relatively low-cost options for employers. A cafeteria-style benefit program can meet the needs of working parents at the same time it meets the needs of employees near retirement. Child care vouchers can allow an employer to contribute directly to the caregiver the employee chooses. This option is often more cost-efficient and adaptable than on-site care. Child care is really one aspect of a whole range of family needs that should be addressed with new and innovative policies. Sonya Bemporad of Child Care Dallas calls child care the hot potato of our times. According to Bemporad, people have begun to recognize the need, but they don’t want to have that potato in their hands too long: “We’ve got to cool that potato off so everyone can handle it.” To do that, then to address the growing child care crisis, will require federal resources and direction, local initiative and planning, and the involvement of all segments of the society. WITH TWO PRESCHOOL children, it was, for me, an easy road to obsession with this topic. I recently finished a Master’s Report on Municipal Planning for Child Care. When I had delivered it to the copy shop to be appropriately bound, I returned home to relax in post-partum delirium. This thought surfaced: I had written about parts and pieces zoning regulations, development incentives, municipal joint ventures. The pieces are important, but a complete vision involves much more planning our cities around our children. I shared this insight with Jill Gronquist of the Austin Childcare Commission “Yes, Gronquist said, We ought to be planning our cities as though we had a future.” Our cities and our society. O diazteca 2600 E. 7th St. Austin, Texas 477-4701 vegetarian food complete personal and business insurance ALICE ANDERSON AGENCY 808-A East 46th P.O. Box 4666, Austin 78765 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 7
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