13 Agencies Receive More Than $1 Million for Child-Care Plans

Times Staff Writer

Thirteen San Gabriel Valley school districts and agencies will receive more than $1 million as part of a statewide effort to provide supervised programs for young students who are left to fend for themselves after school because their parents work.

The state on Monday will begin contract negotiations with each organization to determine the exact amount each will receive, according to Patricia Gardner, administrative assistant in the child development division of the state Department of Education.

Successful San Gabriel Valley applicants and the approximate funding they will receive are: Bassett Unified School District, $90,000; Options child care agency of San Gabriel, $100,000; Pomona Unified School District, $56,509; Garvey School District, $100,000; Baldwin Park Unified School District, $100,000; Pasadena Unified School District, $100,000; San Gabriel Elementary School District, $90,000; Hacienda La Puente Unified School District, $100,000; Claremont Unified School District, $90,000; City of South El Monte, $100,000; Rosemead School District, $90,000; Escalon Inc. agency of Altadena, $31,629, and Comprehensive Child Care Agency of Monterey Park, $51,421.

5 Denied Funds

Unsuccessful area applicants were the YMCA of Metropolitan Los Angeles/South Pasadena, Sunset Day Care Center of West Covina, Duarte Unified School District, Azusa Unified School District and Forrest Day School in Claremont.

Because the successful applicants will not receive as much money as they had sought, they say will not be able to provide some of their programs--including tutoring and recreational activities--for as many latchkey children as they had hoped.

And because the state has not determined the exact amount of the grants, no one is sure when the programs can begin or how many students will be helped. But they hope they can take down signs like the one seen this summer in an area library:

"All children running loose will be towed away and stored at owner's expense."

It is at libraries that latchkey children seem to be the most noticeable in the San Gabriel Valley. Although there are no statistics, many elementary-school children, often with a younger brother or sister in tow, show up at a library after school and stay until it closes.

Alone and Scared

But the problem is evident elsewhere, according to Linda Garcia, who runs a program in the Bassett Unified School District for children whose parents can afford the $100 to $140 monthly fee. With the state grant, Bassett will include children from low-income families who can't afford the program now.

"We see kindergarten children home by themselves and they are scared," Garcia said. "They watch television instead of doing their homework, and when the parents arrive home they are tired and feel guilty about the situation. We are an extension of the family, but we do remind the parents that we are not substitute parents."

Under the School Age Community Child Care Services legislation passed by the state Legislature last year, about $16 million in state funds will be provided each year for latchkey programs for children ages 5 to 13, she said.

Contracts are to be renewed annually, Gardner said.

A total of 280 school districts, private agencies, cities, county offices of education and colleges in California applied for the funding and 158--mostly school districts and private agencies--received it. The state says there are about 800,000 latchkey children in California.

Payment Based on Need

Under the legislation, sponsored by Sen. David Roberti (D-Hollywood), half of the children enrolled in a program must pay a fee and the other half, from families whose incomes range from $12,500 to $25,000, are subsidized through the state grants on a sliding scale based on need.

The mixture was required to ensure that children from low-income families were not put into separate latchkey programs.

Applicants for the state funds were rated on proven need, comprehensiveness and their proposed sites, with preference given to those planned at elementary schools.

Many of the people who will run the programs complained about the speed with which the state is trying to begin them. They had only the month of December to assess the needs in their communities and write proposals. And the state had only five weeks to study the proposals. Under the legislation, programs were to begin March 1, although no one met that deadline.

"This was done in a very tight time frame," Gardner said. "It was very complex and fraught with administrative challenges, but we came out well considering the short time and the immense pressure on everyone."

The schedule was written into the legislation deliberately, said Donne Brownsey, senior consultant to Roberti.

"We wanted to make sure the program got started right away because of the need, and we didn't want state bureaucratic red tape holding up the proceedings," she said.

The districts most prepared are those that have programs paid for by fees of participants.

Bassett offers a program for 37 children at Flanner School, and Garcia said she can have the new program ready to go by March 24.

"We will add about 40 low-income children to the existing program," she said. The program will be open to children in kindergarten through the sixth grade. Among children from low-income families, priority will be given to those who have been abused, neglected or whose parents are on welfare, and to younger children and their siblings. Like the other San Gabriel Valley programs, siblings will be included in an effort to keep family groups together.

Assistance With Homework

The current program, run by teachers, offers arts and crafts, homework assistance, music and creative writing.

Bassett had asked for $168,000 and will receive about $90,000, Garcia said.

The latchkey program in Hacienda La Puente serves 250 children. Gloria Aluzas of the district said the program at Hillgrove School will be expanded to include additional children and will be offered at three other school sites for those in kindergarten through the seventh grade.

"Teachers run the program, which includes extended learning, arts and crafts, games, speakers, cooking and piano, gymnastics and dance lessons," she said.

Asked for $64,400 More

"We asked for $164,400, intending to double in size, but since we will receive less than that ($100,000) we will have to base the number of children on the amount of money we receive."

The Garvey district, which asked for $143,000 and will receive $100,000, hopes to serve 28 students at each of its three elementary schools where a program is already in place, said Joan Hoff. Priority will be given to low-income children in kindergarten through the third grade.

Lucille Wilson of the Pasadena district said that while a program is operating, she doesn't know how many children the district can serve because it asked for $189,000 and will receive about $100,000.

"We are supposed to meet with the state . . . and I hope to get some answers to some of my questions then," she said. About 100 students take part in latchkey programs at three schools.

Richard Tauer of the Rosemead district worried that "there are a lot of 'ifs' in this program. It is a new program and we didn't have much time to put it together."

Hope to Serve 84

Rosemead asked for $109,464 and will get about $90,000. Tauer said he hopes to have programs at three elementary schools serving 28 children at each site. The program will be offered to children in kindergarten through third grade.

"We need to hire a part-time director," he said, "and we'll try to get teachers to run the program if we can afford it.

"The program will include tutoring, language skills, field trips and community recreation programs. If everything works out, I would like to start the program sometime this spring."

Kelly O'Connell of Options, a child resource and referral agency in San Gabriel, got the highest rating in the county from the state for her proposal.

O'Connell said it was based on community involvement, access to parks, parent education and activities that would be culturally and linguistically appropriate for all of the children.

Run by Teachers

"We asked for more than $200,000 to serve the Alhambra, San Gabriel and Monrovia school districts," she said. "But then San Gabriel decided to apply themselves, so we will not be serving them." The agency will get about $100,000 to serve an undetermined number of students in Alhambra and Monrovia.

"The programs will be on school sites, run by teachers and will include sports, extended school, arts and field trips," O'Connell said. "We will serve grades kindergarten through third because the state told us this age group is a priority."

Officials from the other successful applicants could not be reached for comment.

Disappointment is acute for those who applied but were not funded.

The Azusa and Duarte school districts have programs at elementary schools for children who pay and officials said they documented the need to expand the programs to include children from low-income families. They said they were mystified at not being chosen.

Both Betty Forbeck of Duarte and Bonnie Blum of Azusa blamed themselves, saying that their proposals may not have been as well written as the successful ones. Both said they will try again if more funds are made available.

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