Parks Take In ‘Latchkey’ Children : 4 Valley Centers Among 12 in L.A. Offering 600 Students After-School Care

Times Staff Writer

The Los Angeles Recreation and Parks Department entered the child-care business Monday with the start of a citywide program designed to aid up to 600 “latchkey” children--200 in the San Fernando Valley.

Mayor Tom Bradley announced the details of the program at the Victory-Vineland Recreation Center in North Hollywood. Four of the 12 recreation centers where after-school care for children of working parents will be provided are in the Valley. A Pacoima park will offer state subsidies to parents who cannot afford the full fee.

A $150,000 state grant to the parks department to provide child care for poor or lower-middle-class families prompted the city officials to devise the program in October. The aim is to help children who must stay home alone because their working parents cannot afford child care. The term “latchkey” came about because the youngsters often wear door keys around their necks.

In Protected Areas


The city child-care program will have one day-care worker for every 10 children, and activities will take place in fenced off and protected areas inside and outside park recreation centers.

Centers were chosen because of their proximity to elementary schools, James E. Hadaway, general manager of the city’s parks department, said. Children will be picked up by day-care workers at the school and taken to the park.

$15.3 Million Allocated

Last year the Legislature allocated $15.3 million for child care to more than 150 school districts and nonprofit agencies. Organizations that were granted latchkey money must have a 50-50 ratio of subsidized slots and fully paid slots, which cost $18 to $48 a week, depending on the hours a child is cared for.


Bradley said that 350,000 children in the city are without proper day care. He said that, although the $150,000 is a “modest amount,” it will help to provide “an outlet for children who come from families where both parents work and would literally be cooped up in their homes or out on the street without proper supervision.”

In a jab at Gov. George Deukmejian, Bradley, who is running against the governor, said he is pleased that Senate President Pro Tem David A. Roberti (D-Los Angeles) persisted to put the funding bill through.

“The governor vetoed it but Roberti pushed,” Bradley said. “Through his pressure on the governor, he was finally able to get the governor to approve this program.”

Latchkey Bill Vetoed


Deukmejian vetoed a $35-million latchkey bill in 1984, saying it would have created a program too big and too costly to administer.

Hadaway said the state financing will last about 16 months.

“There are a lot of people in the state who feel this is the direction of the future for parks departments to be taking in providing service,” Hadaway said. “If it is the direction, then we want to be in on the ground floor.”

He said the biggest obstacle to overcome is the perception that city parks are unsafe for children and havens for gang and other illegal activities.


These Valley parks will provide care for up to 50 children each:

Hubert Humphrey Park, 12560 Fillmore St., Pacoima; Northridge Park, 18300 Lemarsh St.; Tarzana Park, 5655 Vanalden Ave. and Victory-Vineland Park, 11112 Victory Blvd., North Hollywood. Registration begins this week at the parks’ recreation centers. More information may be obtained from the city at (213) 485-5555.