Stanislaus County aims to boost childcare businesses

Andy Alfaro

Daycare provider Nicole Molina at her home daycare in Turlock, Calif.

The mission of Stanislaus 2030 includes bolstering job opportunities, yet a significant obstacle lies in the shortage of childcare services within the county. To fulfill the demands of the workforce, the county needs to create an additional 36,000 childcare slots. The need is greater for more rural areas with higher Latino populations.

Nurture, a nonprofit organization committed to fostering in-home childcare entrepreneurship, partnered with Stanislaus 2030, the comprehensive plan to boost the county’s economic potential, to establish a pilot program. It tackles the deficit of childcare by helping individuals establish such businesses.

This initiative allows parents to pursue employment opportunities they might otherwise forgo due to the need to stay home with their children.

The 12-week course can be completed through the Nurture app and is available in both English and Spanish.

Nicole Molina, 34, opened her business in January after getting her childcare license through Nurture. She didn’t have to buy much to transform her house into a daycare center. When her church heard of her plans to open a childcare business, it offered her everything she needed, from toys to their business.

“I could have Googled everything I wanted to and I would have failed,” Molina said. “You really can’t fail with Nurture. They literally step-by-step walk you through it.”

As someone who was in the foster care system most of her childhood, she always wanted to start her own childcare business but never found the right time until recently.

Molina now looks after six kids, with ages ranging 6 months to 4 years. She starts the day with story time, then works on developing fine motor skills. Molina initially resisted using technology but compromised with the kids, allowing them 45 minutes of TV time after their naps.

Her favorite part is watching the children reach milestones, such as crawling for the first time, and seeing them grow.

“Children need people to care and love for them. It takes a village, and some people don’t have a village,” she said. “I feel like that’s where we step in, that we can work alongside parents and communicate in a community to raise the next generation.”

Filling a childcare desert

Jennifer Brooks, the founder and CEO of Nurture, said there are millions of dollars in childcare subsidies in the Central Valley that many families are unaware they qualify for.

Oftentimes, individuals already are caring for children, whether those of friends or family members, but struggle to make ends meet. Nurture provides a pathway for these caregivers to access subsidies by offering care to lower-income children and earning a livable wage.

Brooks said Nurture’s goal is to establish 1,500 new businesses to address the waiting list of families who are eligible for childcare subsidies yet unable to find suitable care for their children.

Amanda Silva made the decision to leave her job and become a stay-at-home parent after the birth of her third child, partly due to her struggle to find suitable childcare options. The nearest available facility charged $1,200 per month for her son’s care.

When she learned Molina was opening her childcare business, which is only two miles away from her home, she was the first person to sign up. That allowed her to return to work.

She said it’s slim pickings trying to find childcare, let alone a high quality and affordable daycare. “You want your child to be somewhere where you know that they’re going to take care of your child just like you would,” Silva said.

Pandemic’s impact on childcare

While the pandemic afforded some parents the opportunity to work remotely and be home for their children, it also exacerbated the existing need for childcare.

During the pandemic, California’s childcare service sector lost 35% of its jobs. However, the demand for daycares surged when schools remained closed.

Amanda Hughes, executive director of Stanislaus 2030, said she had to quit a remote job during the pandemic because her kids weren’t engaged through Zoom and still needed her to serve as an in-person teacher.

“The idea that it’s possible to have a full-time job and to be the home-school teacher is a myth,” Hughes said. “I think what COVID did is it really revealed the inequities and a universal need around childcare.”

Right opportunity, wrong time

When Destiney Iglesias had her daughter, she knew she also wanted to help other kids.

She signed up for Nurture but soon discovered there were a lot of rules and fees that went into opening a childcare business.

After three classes with Nurture, she realized she wasn’t ready, so left the program.

Part of getting your license and starting your business is having a home or a facility from which to run the daycare. Iglesias lives in a mobile home big enough for only her and her daughter.

She said Nurture was understanding and let her know she can come back when she is ready. “I really appreciated that they left the door open,” Iglesias said.

She’s had her share of struggling to find affordable childcare. In Facebook groups, she sees many moms asking for people to watch their kids.

“That’s extremely dangerous to be that desperate for childcare that you would just trust your most valuable possession with just anybody,” she said.

Future of childcare

While the need for childcare remains high, decreasing birth rates may reduce the demand in the future. Since 1995, birth rates in Stanislaus County have declined by nearly 20%.

Most of Molina’s Nurture cohort has been successful in filling up its childcare slots quickly. However, she does consider the decline of birth rates impacting her business and the childcare industry in the future.

“I think it’s going to start getting really competitive,” Molina said.

Julietta Bisharyan: (209) 385-2402