“Let us sacrifice our today so our children can have a better tomorrow.” – A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, Indian scientist and statesman
Few people sacrifice more of their waking hours for the young children of East Los Angeles than Justine Flores.
Rising before the break of dawn each weekday, she prepares her small, three-bedroom peach-colored home to welcome the dozen children — from newborns to preteens — who come through the doors of Flores Family Child Care. They stay until their parents return from work, often after dark.
Then, when most other parents are resting over the weekend, Flores heads out to her other job.
The one she works just to keep her child care doors open.
“I work Saturday and Sunday as a nurse to pay for this,” she said. “Ninety percent of the funding for the center comes from me.”
Even then, Flores said, it is not always enough. After paying the wages of her part-time child care workers and other expenses like curriculum materials, supplies and playground improvements, Flores averaged $1.25 an hour last year, she said.
“There are days I have to choose between providing enough food for my family and the kids in my care,” she said.
Flores represents a single snapshot in the album of life experienced by early care and education (ECE) providers in L.A. County. The balance between making ends meet and ensuring quality care is a challenge faced by many of approximately 10,000 licensed child care providers like Flores, who are serving tens of thousands of young children countywide.
But they are not alone. Along with its partners, First 5 LA is making great strides towards policy and systems change to improve access to quality care, increase provider rates, train the ECE workforce and other efforts aligned with its North Star: that by 2028 all children in L.A. County enter kindergarten ready to succeed in school and life.
Specifically, First 5 LA’s 2015-2020 Strategic Plan includes targeted ECE outcomes such as establishment of a countywide Kindergarten Readiness Assessment (KRA); strengthening and expansion of a countywide Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS); development of a sustainable ECE Workforce Registry; establishment of a California early childhood teaching credential; strengthening the early educator professional development system; and policy and advocacy work to prioritize access to quality ECE at the local, state and national levels.