May 3, 2023 821 PM
PRESIDIO COUNTY — In response to the continual lack of regional childcare options, Workforce Solutions Borderplex, a nonprofit organization, is launching an initiative to jumpstart 10 new home-based day cares in Presidio County.
Marisela Correa, director of family services with WSB, said the local need for more home-based day cares is apparent when considering there are no childcare facilities in Marfa and the one day care currently operating in Presidio has very limited capacity.
“We are looking at how we can develop that area [and] be that support system, because we know there’s a need and then there’s also lack of infrastructure to create a childcare center,” said Correa.
WSB received funding in the form of a community benefit grant from CEI Capital Management LLC, which it will use to hire an outreach specialist to help recruit home day care providers, as well as provide start-up costs and assistance to those new businesses.
Correa said in addition to addressing the need for childcare, the project’s goal is also to bolster the local workforce by providing jobs in the form of home day care operators and more.
“This would also help our businesses in the community because in order to retain or obtain employees, they themselves are looking at, ‘Well, I need childcare,’” said Correa.
For those already taking care of one to two children of their relatives or friends, Correa said setting up a home day care can be a way to formalize, scale-up and profit off of services that in some cases are already being provided.
WSB will work with the Rio Grande Council of Governments to hire a local outreach specialist to help individuals explore what it would take to get their homes established as licensed day care facilities. The outreach specialist — a short-term role hopefully performed by a local, said Correa — will also connect potential home day care providers to resources such as consultations where they can learn about requirements, funding opportunities and more.
Monetary support for these new businesses may include covering fees relating to licensing, rezoning, gas inspections and background checks — which will be required for anyone that lives in the home that will serve as a day care. Recruits will also be made aware of WSB’s facilities in Presidio and Alpine, which offer resume writing and other job services.
Though neighboring Brewster County has a growing number of childcare options — a couple of existing home day cares, and a Montessori school in Alpine, plus Alpine ISD’s new initiative to create a day care with the school to the tune of $500,000 in funding from WSB and the Texas Workforce Commission — Presidio County remains in dire need of the services said Correa, and home day cares seem to be a viable option.
“We thought, well, maybe if we get some registered homes — they’re smaller, [with a] smaller amount of children that they accept, but they might be spread out throughout the county and might be able to support that need,” said Correa.
The program is loosely set up in two phases, explained Correa. Phase one will focus on locating potential home day care operators, ideally by the end of September 2023, while phase two will involve education on childcare regulations and getting locations up and running with necessary licensing and fees.
“I know we say 10, but if we’re successful with one or two, then hopefully more come on board,” she added.
Once home day cares are set up, she said, WSB can support them further financially with supplies, materials and equipment. Day cares that enter into contracts with WSB may also receive subsidies provided by the nonprofit — money provided to parents to offset the daily fee of childcare.
Rates differ for infants, toddlers and preschoolers, ranging from $22 to $24, and are higher for day cares that participate in Texas Rising Star, a quality rating improvement program, ranging from $26 to $30 per day.
There are a number of technical and legal distinctions among home day cares, which potential operators will have to familiarize themselves with — for example, registered and licensed homes are not one in the same. Both are limited to 12 children under the age of 14, but registered homes can only host six children, then an additional six for afterschool programs. Licensed homes, meanwhile, can host 12 at any one time. And infants count as two children, due to the level of care required.
Home day cares are also subject to routine health and safety inspections, which are made available to the public. Still, despite the legal and technical hoops, Correa argued it was a feasible way to make a living and an opportunity to become an entrepreneur with relatively low overhead costs, given the cost-effectiveness of running a business out of one’s home. And one thing was guaranteed, said Correa — a customer base.
“It is a business no matter how you look at it,” said Correa. “It’s not a new thing. It’s not a fad that comes and goes. There’s always a need as parents in the community have children.”
Presidio parent Diana Aguirre Armendáriz, who has a 4 year old and a 3-month old, affirmed that more day care services are needed in the border town. Armendáriz is the main caregiver for her children, having been unsuccessful in getting them into the Presidio Coalition for Children day care in Presidio, which is located on the school district’s grounds.
The facility, which opened in 2018, can accommodate up to 150 students but currently only serves 12 due to staffing shortages. The facility is working to improve operations after pandemic closures, but still has a long waitlist, which frustrates parents like Armendáriz, who said she doesn’t understand why childcare in the area is so limited.
“Why wasn’t the opening of a day care in Presidio data-based, getting an average of the demand and [in this way] meeting the needs of the population?” said Armendáriz. “Since it’s a rural area with not many residents, it could have been better thought out.”
Armendáriz said if a legitimate, certified home day care provider, or providers, in Presidio existed, she would consider sending her children there — that, in turn, would help her go back to work.
Marfa parent Yasmine Guevara, whose 6-year-old son attends Marfa Elementary, said she too would consider a home day care if it was properly credentialed.
The Marfa ISD School Board’s decision to switch to a four-day instructional week for the 2023-2024 school year, with students having Fridays off, is concerning for Guevara. While she supports the initiative — enacted by the school board to give teachers more time to prepare for instruction, prevent burnout and attract more hires to the district — her limited childcare options are troublesome. Her main method of childcare is relying on family members, she said. But her grandmother, the only caretaker available on Fridays, often has other out-of-town family obligations and doctor’s appointments, meaning Guevara could be left with no one to turn to.
“This is a concern for me because if she is not able to watch my son, that would mean that I would have to take the day off of work to care for him since there are no other childcare resources in town,” said Guevara.
As a single parent who works full time and is also enrolled in courses at Sul Ross State University, the lack of local childcare has been stressful for her and her family, she said. Guevara advocated for affordable childcare for families of all sizes, and for more general spaces for children to go in town, similar to a boys and girls club.
“Not only because the school is switching to a four-day work week, but for the children to have a place during the summer to spend their time while parents are working,” said Guevara.
Correa said discussions with local school districts like Marfa and Fort Davis ISDs regarding the establishment of school-district supported day care facilities were still ongoing. Alpine ISD’s new day care initiative — which would include day care over the summer months — has also made progress as of late, said Correa, having hired a day care director, assistant director and more.
“I think a lot of the school districts around the area are looking to see what Alpine is doing and how that is working out,” said Correa.
As for the possibility of 10 new home day cares in Presidio County, Correa said taking care of young children and being a part of their growth was a rewarding experience and they were hopeful they would attract interested parties.
“They are teachers of early education,” said Correa. “The little ones that are developing and are going to be heading to school to have an opportunity to be able to be part of that child’s development.”