City Fails to Win State Grant in Blow to ‘Year of the Child’ Program

Times Staff Writer

In a blow to Mayor Maureen O’Connor’s plans to improve the provision of child care in San Diego, the city was notified Monday that it had failed in its effort to win a state grant to develop a comprehensive master plan for day-care services.

The state Department of Education awarded 19 grants of $25,000 or less to 16 cities and three counties. San Marcos, which won $25,000, was the only San Diego County entity to garner any funds. The cities of Poway and Escondido and a commission created by the San Diego County Board of Supervisors were also among the 49 agencies rejected.

The city’s rejection was a setback for O’Connor, who in her January State of the City address dubbed 1989 the “Year of the Child.” She promised to work to establish on-site child-care programs for city employees and “off-site reading and recreation programs” for “latchkey children,” who spend their after-school hours alone because both parents work.

O’Connor also promised to make the city’s youth coordinator a “czar for children” who would serve as a coordinator of child care.

The unexpected availability of the one-time state grants was seen as an opportunity to develop a comprehensive approach to the city’s child-care needs. The Childcare Resource Service estimates that 92,238 San Diego county children lack day care, and that most of them are school-age latchkey kids.


Some child-care advocates, however, had criticized the idea, saying that the subject had been thoroughly studied and that prompt action was needed. At least one City Council member said he wanted to use the money to immediately hire a child-care coordinator, which most large California cities and many smaller ones already have.

O’Connor expressed disappointment about the state decision, but promised to win allocation of the $25,000 during the city’s fiscal 1990 budget deliberations. She said that a City Council committee would take up the proposal to establish a child-care coordinator.

“The $25,000, I think we can find it,” she said. “If it was $250,000, it would be a different story.”

But City Manager John Lockwood, who has already served notice that city services will be cut across the board in the upcoming budget, said there is no money available for a new plan.

“We were really looking forward to that grant, because I don’t know where (the money) is coming from,” Lockwood said. “I can’t identify $25,000 for any study.”

Jean Brunkow, executive director of the YMCA’s Childcare Resource Service, acknowledged that the money would have been helpful, but said the city’s increased attention to child-care needs has made her optimistic that a solution will be found.

The city is applying for federal funds to support a program to help teen-age mothers raise their children and continues to work toward fruition of other Year of the Child projects offered by O’Connor, said Paul Downey, the mayor’s spokesman.

Those include creating a children’s museum in Balboa Park; establishing a space, aviation, astronomy and science center for children at the Reuben H. Fleet Space Theater and the International Aerospace Hall of Fame and holding a series of events for children, known as “Kidsweek,” in April, Downey said.

San Marcos, a city of 32,000 people that already has a part-time child-care coordinator, will use its grant to double the coordinator’s working hours from 16 to 32, said Bill Schramm, the city’s community services coordinator.

Some of the money will also be used to create a videotape and booklets providing information to parents and people wishing to open child-care facilities, Schramm said.