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Waiting list is long for child care centers

New corporate sponsorship program helps offset costs for some low-income families.

October 11, 2011|By Megan O'Neil, megan.oneil@latimes.com

The wait list for a tandem of local, low-cost child care centers is 400 families deep, with some applicants on standby for as long as three years to land a coveted spot, officials said Tuesday.

The Burbank Housing Corp. Child Development Center at 2300 N. Ontario St. and Mary Alice O’Connor Family Center at 401 N. Buena Vista St., which have been operated jointly by a national management company since 2004, can accommodate 180 children, said Executive Director Jamie Patrick.

In her status update to the Burbank Childcare Committee on Tuesday, Patrick said fees range from $624 to $1,275 a month, with the most expensive services for infant care. But the infant and toddler care programs are at capacity, with waits ranging from three months to three years.

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“There are a lot of different factors that drive that,” Patrick said. “One of them is the prioritization of our waiting list.”

Top priority is given to families who live in complexes owned and operated by the Burbank Housing Corp., a city-managed, nonprofit housing development firm that serves low-income residents. Second priority goes to low-income families who live anywhere in Burbank, and then non-low income families follow.

“If we have a lot of families who come to us who live in Burbank and have a low-income level, then families who just live or work in Burbank don’t get in as quickly,” Patrick said. “But every year it is a little bit different.”

With demand for child care increasing, the centers’ management company, Children’s Creative Learning Centers, in April activated a previously dormant agreement with a consortium of businesses on Ontario Street. It allows the businesses to pay a sponsorship fee in exchange for its employees’ families being placed third on the priority list at either of the two centers.

“Nobody wanted to do it [initially], probably because at the time the waiting list didn’t exist,” Patrick said of the eight-year-old agreement. “Now that it does, and everybody wants in, they decided to rethink it.”

The arrangement means off-setting some costs for low-income families, Patrick said. There are 12 such corporate sponsorship slots between the two centers, although the wait list is so long that none of those families have actually been enrolled.

Despite the overwhelming demand, neither the Burbank Housing Corp. nor Children’s Creative Learning Centers have plans to expand at this time, Patrick said.

“Essentially, they have done what they plan on doing…and they don’t have any clear vision of expansion,” she said.

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