‘Keeping Kids Close to Home Act’ aims to increase child care access

Nancy Skinners Office/Courtesy

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California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed SB 234, or the “Keeping Kids Close to Home Act,” into law Tuesday, increasing opportunities and access to child care through zoning classification adjustment.

First introduced by state Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, in February, the law garnered unanimous support in both the state Assembly and state Senate. The bill allows large family child care homes, or those which are responsible for up to 14 children, to operate in residential zoning areas. The act will go into effect in January 2020.

“Family childcare homes are an accessible and affordable way to provide the care our children need,” Skinner said in a press release. “But neighborhood childcare providers have increasingly been pushed out by rising costs and onerous licensing requirements.”

SB 234 also reaffirms the state’s commitment to neighborhood-based child care homes and provides additional protection for child care owners from unfair landlords, according to a press release from Skinner’s office.

The law amends the California Child Day Care Act of 1984, which granted zoning exceptions for small family child care centers that are responsible for up to eight children at a time.

Although Berkeley is home to 48 licensed large family child care centers, there is still a shortage of space and affordability for child care in the city, according to the Berkeley Municipal Code. The official text of SB 234 also mentions limited access to child care facilities in California as a whole.

“California has a tremendous shortage of regulated childcare, and only a small fraction of families who need childcare have it,” stated the law. “Parents should be able to support their families without having to sacrifice their child’s well-being.”

The text of the law also emphasizes the importance of child care for working families. In her press release, Skinner pointed out that many women of color are affected by a lack of access to child care.

The motivation behind SB 234 draws on the importance of child care for the educational, cognitive and emotional development of children. It aims to reduce costs and “red tape” for owners of large family child care centers.

According to Skinner’s press release, certain jurisdictions in California have already adopted the measure. The city of Berkeley allowed for some large family child care centers to operate out of residential zones, but had an extra permitting process in place to do so. This law will likely remove that extra requirement.

“We are all working hard to provide the best for our children. We need childcare we can rely on from providers we trust,” Skinner said in a press release. “This new law makes it clear that California values and supports quality childcare close to home, in all our communities.”

Kate Finman is a news reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @KateFinman_DC.

A previous version of this article said SB 234 would be affecting “family child care centers.” In fact, it will be affecting “large family child care homes.”