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Thousands Of Families Struggling To Find Child Care In Sacramento; 'Future Vitality of Our City' At Stake?

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — The city of Sacramento addressing a major shortage that is impacting families throughout the county: a lack of childcare services.

"If we don't help people set roots in Sacramento, we're risking the future vitality of our city," said city councilman Eric Guerra.

Many families are faced with two-year waitlists both at child care centers and family child care homes. Twenty-two hundred people currently can't find care, and parents are forced to make the difficult decision whether to return to work.

"When you have a kid, things are gonna be difficult, but you don't think childcare is gonna be the main concern," said mom Kyle Lane.

Lane's baby Everette is just three and a half months old, but months before she was born her parents knew to start looking for childcare, thinking they'd be ahead of the game... but they weren't.

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"I think we're on a waitlist for 7 different locations right now and I'm still trying to get her on more," said Lane.

Lane says finding a child care center for her newborn so she can go back to work has been a real struggle.

"If I don't go would impact our benefits, and bring on a whole new set of questions and issues," said Lane.

Councilman Guerra's own plight inspired him to take action.

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"We don't have enough centers for the current demand. Folks are trying to fight their way into a spot. I know myself I had a 2 year wait to get into a location," he said. "There's a combination of both the lack of centers that closed during the recession and the boom of more young people moving to Sacramento."

In Sacramento there are only enough child care slots for 27% of kids with working parents and the average cost is about $8-13,000 a year, which councilman Guerra says equates to about one year of tuition at Sacramento State University, leaving many families faced with a tough decision.

"Maybe I shouldn't go back to work, that's a huge chunk of my paycheck," said Lane

In a hearing held Wednesday with key county and state leaders, the focus was on solutions.

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"One problem is Zoning restrictions for centers, loosening up those restrictions would be helpful especially with the cost, so that centers can be built and upgraded," said attorney Laurie Furstenfeld with the Child Care Law Center.

Furstenfeld added, "The city of Sacramento does not require a zoning permit for family care homes, but they require a business operations tax, that could be eliminated."

Another hurdle? Child care providers don't make a lot of money.

"When you can work at Starbucks or Costco and make more, people are leaving the field," said Furstenfeld.

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The county is having a hard time recruiting people.

"Cities could initiate a ballot initiative to increase wages of child care providers so they can open and stay in business," Furstenfeld proposed.

It's a major shortage that's impacting the economic prosperity of a growing city.

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