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    United Way of Santa Barbara County Awarded $1 Million for Childcare Sector Expansion

    The average family of four in Santa Barbara County can expect to spend up to 37% of their annual income on childcare costs alone

    In an effort to address the growing need for childcare for local working families, United Way of Santa Barbara County has been selected by the County of Santa Barbara to lead a countywide assessment and expansion of the local childcare sector.

    In 2022, at the request of nonprofits and foundations operating childcare programs, the County of Santa Barbara reallocated $2 million of the remaining balance of federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding to support the recovery and rebuilding of the childcare sector in Santa Barbara County. First 5 Santa Barbara County facilitated a bid process to award local agencies with funding to support their efforts.

    United Way of Santa Barbara County was selected through the bid process to lead a countywide childcare assessment, develop an emergency childcare action plan, provide support for businesses seeking to establish or expand childcare, and to establish childcare funds specifically for middle income families. United Way will coordinate with First 5 and organizations including the Santa Barbara Foundation to accomplish the tasks outlined in the bid proposal.

    “The childcare sector is a daunting task, but an important one,” said Michelle Robertson, assistant director of First 5 Santa Barbara County. “This funding is an initial investment in what we hope to be a long-term solution that will benefit thousands here in our community. We are excited about United Way’s ability to coordinate and lead these efforts and look forward to our partnership.”

    In the last decade, childcare costs across the nation have skyrocketed. According to recent data, the average family in Santa Barbara County with two children in licensed childcare facilities can expect to spend up to 37% of their annual income on childcare costs alone. From family members leaving the workforce to care for children at home to financial instability caused by the high cost of quality care, many families are left without the support they need to thrive.

    After United Way’s success in establishing and leading the expansion of infant and toddler childcare for emergency and essential workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, the organization was commissioned by the cities of Santa Barbara and Goleta to facilitate a community needs assessment to better understand the specific needs of local families in these two cities in securing access to reliable, affordable care.

    Results from the initial childcare assessment exposed an intense and immediate need across all income levels for assistance in finding and affording quality childcare for children ages 0-5.

    “Most home daycares are word of mouth and are impossible to find online for reviews or ratings,” reported one survey respondent. “Many childcare centers require multi-month waitlist with fees and requirements to ‘check-in’ on the waitlist or your family is removed from the list entirely. Feels like the Hunger Games in order to find any care at all.”

    One-third of respondents to United Way’s survey were unsatisfied with their current childcare situation but felt they had no option but to continue on with their current provider.

    Results from United Way’s Childcare Assessment joined community-wide reports of challenges in the childcare sector. As local organizations and nonprofits continue efforts to support families and providers through scholarship programs and provider support, sector-wide deficiencies continue to have significant impacts on parent and caregivers’ ability to access affordable, high-quality care.

    United Way’s first step with the secured ARPA funding will be to expand its community childcare assessment countywide, collecting current data from parents, providers and employers with a focus on identified high-need areas throughout the county, including Guadalupe, Santa Barbara, Goleta, Buellton, Lompoc, Carpinteria and Santa Maria. With the initial investment of the ARPA funding, United Way looks forward to building and advocating for long-term, braided funding models to support sustainable development within the sector.

    “We are pleased to move ahead with expanding our focus on childcare within United Way’s approach to better serve local children and families,’ said Melinda Cabrera, vice president of United Way. “We’re excited about the opportunity to share our experience and expertise in this space to generate innovation throughout the sector. This an important extension of nearly a century of programs and partnerships that our organization has developed, managed and led on behalf of those we serve.”

    United Way has also launched the Brighter Futures Childcare Coalition, a group of committed stakeholders from the business, municipal, provider and education sectors, to direct and develop innovative solutions to Santa Barbara’s childcare challenges. The organization has already begun conversations to establish membership of the coalition, which currently includes representatives from local employers like Cottage Health and UC Santa Barbara, municipal partners like First 5 Santa Barbara County and the Santa Barbara South Coast Chamber of Commerce, and community and philanthropic partners like Carpinteria Children’s Project and the Audacious Foundation. The mission of the coalition is to improve access to high-quality childcare for parents from all economic backgrounds while building innovative solutions that will support new and existing childcare centers with sustainable expansion.

    “I was proud to advocate for a recent partnership between the City of Goleta and United Way that studied childcare challenges and identified opportunities here locally,” said Councilmember James Kyriaco, a recently appointed member of the Childcare Coalition. “I’m excited to build on these efforts, and help ensure that affordable, accessible high-quality childcare is prioritized for children, families and employers throughout the county.”

    United Way is currently celebrating 100 years of service, recognizing over a century of experience developing programs and leading collaboratives to address evolving needs and challenges like these. Through the design, funding and management of programs and services that directly support children and students throughout its service area, United Way has established robust infrastructure and networks to create sustainable, effective solutions. Supporting comprehensive expansion and development within the childcare sector is an essential extension of United Way’s work to create a more solid foundation for students and families to thrive.

    The childcare coalition continues to increase its membership and United Way looks forward to leading this new network of philanthropic, corporate and community partners to create impactful change within the sector.

    United Way Brighter Futures Childcare Coalition Members:

    1. Annette Muse – UCSB, Director, Early Childhood Care and Education Services
    2. Yukiko Irie – Cottage Health, VP and Chief Human Resources Officer for Cottage Health
    3. James Kyriaco – City of Goleta, City Councilmember
    4. Katherine Brozowski – Audacious Foundation
    5. Kristen Miller – Santa Barbara South Coast Chamber of Commerce, President & CEO
    6. Mari Ortega-Garcia, M.Ed.– Guadalupe Unified School District, Director of Early Education & Support
    7. Maria Chesley – Consultant
    8. Meagan Harmon – City of Santa Barbara, City Councilmember
    9. Michelle Robertson- First 5 Santa Barbara County
    10. Senator Monique Limon – California Senate, District 19
    11. Susie Couture – MarBorg Industries & HR Association
    12. Teresa Alverez – Carpinteria Children’s Project, Executive Director
    13. Blanca Hernandez – Deckers Brands
    14. Heather Ames – Montecito Bank & Trust
    15. Chris Saxton – Amazon

    About United Way of Santa Barbara County
    Since 1923, United Way of Santa Barbara County has been a key leader in local efforts to empower children, families, and communities through its own unique collaborative programs and initiatives, partnership convening efforts, volunteer development, and funding. United Way’s mission is to enrich the lives of children and families and build resilient communities by leading local programs and partnerships that improve school readiness and academic achievement, financial empowerment, and crisis response and recovery. To learn more, please visit unitedwaysb.org.

    Press Release
    Press Release
    This is a press release sent to Goleta Voice for publication. Refer to the references in the article for more information.
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