As the mom of a toddler and baby, and the owner of three L.A.-area preschools, Jessica Chang understands the challenges facing parents seeking quality and affordable childcare close to home.
Surprised and frustrated by the lack of affordable childcare in her Rancho Park neighborhood, Chang did some research and found that California is among U.S. states with the highest percentage (about 60 percent) of “childcare deserts,” a phrase coined by the Center for American Progress that describes an insufficient supply of licensed childcare options.
Chang says that since most preschools serve ages 2-6, the only options for infants and toddlers are home daycare centers. Yet studies show that licensed centers and family childcare homes in L.A. only have the capacity to serve 13 percent of working parents with infants and toddlers.
To address the childcare crisis, Chang founded and is CEO of WeeCare.co, a mobile platform that assists caregivers in creating home daycare businesses to fill the childcare void. Chang and co-founders Matt Reilly, chief marketing officer, and Jesse Forrest, chief technology officer, partnered with educator and author Esther Wojciki, Ph.D., to create a curriculum for young children in home daycare centers.
What are the repercussions of the childcare crisis?
Even if you live in a nice area, there’s often a waitlist. The parents have to weigh in and say one of us has to stay home, and that’s usually the mother.
And if parents are desperate to find childcare, there might be an increase in child safety issues. You might place a child with someone who isn’t trained. Or, parents ask family members to watch kids. While they’re great, kids between the ages of 0 and 6 need more than just care. They need the opportunity to learn and develop.
Even though Grandma’s house is fine for a short period of time, there are developmental skills parents are foregoing when they decide to leave their young child for a longer period of time. Many of the foundations that kids use to learn in K-12 are established when they are between the ages of 0 to 6, such as the ability to share, the ability to speak up, creativity, etc.
Which families and neighborhoods are most affected?
It impacts almost everyone. There are different issues. In a lot of the high-end areas, you have waitlists and higher costs. The lower-income parents don’t have many options, so they may forego quality. I’ve also seen what teachers were going through. There’s a lot of teacher turnover. I was not losing teachers to other schools. I was losing them to Walmart and Target, where they get health insurance and higher hourly pay. There aren’t a lot of insurance companies that would offer quotes for four or five teachers. Teachers would leave because they couldn’t afford to stay.
How does WeeCare address the childcare crisis?
We help parents find childcare and we help teachers stay in this industry and provide for kids. We have a mix of licensed preschool teachers and caregivers. Our home daycare [program] is about 30 to 40 percent cheaper. Every one of our home daycares accepts government subsidy. We also wanted them to be better, like a micro-preschool, so we decided to focus on curriculum.
What kind of curriculum does WeeCare provide?
We made a weekly curriculum that allows a provider to pick up and read a lesson plan, [create a] daily theme and apply that for infants, toddlers and preschoolers.
Why do you believe the future of daycare is home daycare?
Originally, home daycares were the center of communities where parents and kids gathered together. After the global recession, people started to go back to their roots, their communities, to find more individualized experiences. Parents don’t want the commercial centers anymore; they want the homey feel, lower child-to-teacher ratios and the more individualized experiences that home daycares can bring to the community. We have a big mission we are trying to accomplish. The more home daycares we provide, the more we address the childcare crisis.
For more information, visit weecare.co.