Finding Affordable, Quality Child Care

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Kenyatta Bakeer, who runs Wisdom Preschool in Los Angeles, discusses how she meets the needs of low- to middle-income families that are struggling to find suitable, affordable child care.

FARAI CHIDEYA, host:

From NPR News, this is NEWS & NOTES. I'm Farai Chideya.

Yesterday, we talked to an African-American mom who couldn't find a nanny for her kids and a reporter who looked at the racial implications of child care. But most people can't afford nannies. So today, we take a look at a shortage of quality day care. To combat that, some programs target and subsidized fees for low-income families.

In this case, working class and middle class parents might feel the most financial pain. But there are also child care providers who looked to fill an affordable niche and a need.

One is 35-year-old Kenyatta Bakeer. She runs Wisdom Preschool, a modest but spacious center nestled in the middle of a busy residential community in South Los Angeles.

The preschool accepts children two to five years old. And we paid her a visit at Wisdom Preschool and bring you Kenyatta Bakeer in her own words.

Ms. KENYATTA BAKEER (Director, Wisdom Preschool): I'm the eldest of nine children, so ever since I could remember my mother always taught me how to interact with children. This community is dear to me. Actually, my two preschools that I run with LA Unified are right down the street.

I grew up about five minutes from here. We still own the property. The neighborhood has changed drastically. It used to be predominantly African-American. Now it's predominantly Latino, but the need is still there, the need that children need to be educated. And if you looked at studies, zero to three is the most crucial time in a child's development.

And if you can get a child at that age and be able to really mold them and get them not just to understand ABC, 123, but social skills, interaction with other children. Then when they go on to kindergarten and to a higher grade, then they fare better.

I think that the quality child care is there as far as the people who are actually initiating it, who are the ones who were in the field, who are the workers. But as far as the funding sources are limited in a sense. Money has been passed out through the state. Arnold Schwarzenegger is passing down more money to the many different bills, but it still needs to be more money. And we do have universal preschool where they are trying to educate for your all children.

So they're starting to see the need, but it's only come within the last 10 years. So we're talking about all these generations of children who missed out on that, or got a part of. So now it's our goal to even educate the parents, because parents can't raise their children if they don't know how to parent.

It's a challenge and it could be a deficit, I constantly felt like I was banging my head a lot of days. My parent meetings would consist of maybe five people out of - one of my sites was 230 children. It's starting to become better because I think there's a sense of people starting to say, you know what, I want better for my child.

You might even have a parent that's struggling with drug abuse or alcohol abuse, but the main thing is that they want to make sure if the child is safe. I know that I can get funding from the state for certain families. But the ones who are just in that middle, who don't qualify for welfare, can't get on welfare, maybe they're working and they make just a little bit more money a year but still struggling. We decrease the price with them about $50 to $60 a week just to help them with that. And the parents are grateful.

You know, because I could say well you have to have the max amount and that's it. But in actuality I'm losing this child. So I look at the bigger picture, what is this child going to be in 20 years. Maybe this child comes into our preschool setting and learning and adapting in society makes this child go be the next president of the United States. So then in turn, when I'm old and gray and retire, then I'll get it back, anyway.

CHIDEYA: That was Kenyatta Bakeer, executive director of Wisdom Preschool in Los Angeles. Kenyatta opened a school just two weeks ago on January 2nd.

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