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February 5, 2020

Children playing With toys

With over 160 years of experience, the YMCA (the Y) is one of the most famous nonprofit organizations in the world. One of the reasons people turn to The Y is for its community-driven spirit and areas of impact: youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. There is a resource for all ages and stages of life—including working parents.

In San Diego County, finding accessible and affordable child care is a challenge for many and, in turn, directly affects businesses, our workforce and the economy. The San Diego Workforce Partnership spoke with staff at the Childcare Resource Service (CRS) at the Y to learn more about the resources they’re offering working families in need of help.

What is the YMCA Childcare Resource Service?

We are a social service department of the YMCA of San Diego County, the largest YMCA association in the nation. For over 40 years, we have been dedicated to providing free and low cost services to the community with a focus on matching families with child care programs that meet their needs and working with child care providers to help them run their businesses. In the last fiscal year, we impacted the lives of more than 70,000 San Diegans as detailed in our annual report.

Little girl playing with toysHow do child care referrals work?

Every county in California has a state-funded child care resource and referral program and YMCA Childcare Resource Service is the only one for San Diego County. Every kind of child care—including licensed centers and family child care homes, nanny agencies and license-exempt school-based programs—is listed in our free referral database.

When a parent or caregiver needs child care, they call the Referral Line at 1(800) 481-2151 and speak directly with a child care consultant.

During this live conversation, the consultant shares useful tips for choosing quality child care and figures out what the parent/caregiver is looking for. Based on that information, the consultant reviews a list of possible child care facility options, including the name of the program, telephone number, license number, and additional information with the parent/caregiver. The referral line is open Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Friday from 8 a.m. to noon.

What’s the value behind partnerships like ours?

Developing our workforce and having accessible child care go hand in hand. Because the concepts are so connected, we intentionally seek out opportunities to integrate our services, refer families to one another’s programs and share knowledge.

A great example of this is the Child Care + Workforce report. This partnership puts San Diego families at the center of our work so both organizations can focus on delivering services that support the whole family.

We’ve also been actively involved in the local 2Gen workgroup, making sure we’re working with families to meet their needs now, while also laying the foundation so their children can thrive as they grow up.

Child care is a hot button issue right now. What do you want San Diegans to know?

So many things! For your readers, I think the most important thing to know is that quality child care must be synonymous with workforce development and economic potential. Without child care, it is virtually impossible for parents to work. This significantly hurts their ability to earn wages and limits the economic potential of a region—no one wins in that scenario. #2Gen Click To Tweet

Parents who look for child care often make their choices based on location and price, and it’s crucial that quality is part of that equation. A quality child care environment is one where children have access to healthy food, safe and educational toys, and enriching interactions. Because a child’s brain develops the most between the ages 0-5, quality child care sets up children to thrive in Kindergarten and beyond. Here are some of our tips for choosing quality child care.

We could talk about this all day, but the final thing we’ll say about child care right now is that we can’t forget about child care providers either. We all know it takes a village to raise a child, and child care providers are an essential part of that village, but they don’t always have access to the resources typically available to teachers and others working with children in our community.

In reality, child care providers are some of our children’s first teachers, and supporting them in professional development and earning a living wage directly impacts our children. If you want to explore this topic a little more, we recently wrote about the importance of child care providers in child development here.

What does the future look like for the CRS?

2020 marks 40 years of us making an impact in San Diego County and we’re embarking on this next phase of our life by harnessing the power of technology. We recently created an interactive map that shows the supply of child care in the region, and we continue to update it with new data, so check back often.

Thanks to recent research, we know that nearly 50% of working families do not have access to quality child care in San Diego County, and now we can see where opportunity may be lacking for families and help us develop local solutions to help more parents continue to work so all children have an equitable opportunity to thrive during the critical developmental years of early childhood.

For more information on the YMCA CRS, visit

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