Your questions answered: California launches new childcare portal

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- On Thursday, Governor Gavin Newsom announced a new online portal, to help California parents, who are struggling to work and take care of their children during the coronavirus pandemic.

ABC7 news went to the state official and Bay Area tech CEO, who were in charge of creating the portal, to find out how it works.

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Question 1: Who is eligible to use the site and who has access to the state's 20,000 subsidized child care slots?

"We welcome all families across the state to fully use the childcare portal to meet their childcare needs," said Kim Johnson, the director of California's Department of Social Services, which is the lead agency on the portal.

While the website is open to everyone, Johnson explained that the portal is meant to help essential workers easily access the childcare they need during the crisis. She says $50 million in state funding will go to the California Department of Education, to pay for up to 20,000 limited-term additional state-subsidized slots for child care.

"For the childcare subsidies.... Those subsidies are limited and prioritized for vulnerable populations and for essential workers."

Question 2: How do parents know the 41,000 daycare centers listed on the portal are safe?

Johnson said all the programs are vetted. "No programs, that are not in good standing with the community care licensing division, would be included on the portal."

"Both a background check for the individuals who are providing the care as well as a facility check," are mandatory for all centers listed on the portal, said Johnson.

Question 3: How does the portal work?

"This is what you'll see when you first land on the website," said Matthew Tamayo, pointing to a simple map of the Bay Area on the front page of the portal.

Tamayo is the CEO of Bay Area startup OpenLattice, which aggregated all the daycare center data to build the site. The portal is a working list of daycare centers, and new locations will be added regularly.

Once you enter the site, users can type in their city or zip code into a search bar, or allow the the site to access the user's current location. Once location information is determined, pins to nearby childcare centers appear on the map.

Tamayo explains how each pin contains information about the site. "If I actually click on this one for example, I see that this has spots open and it has a capacity of eight children.... You can come in and actually see whether there's any complaints, nearest hospital, licensing information as well as the R&R information"

R&R stands for resources and referral agency, which leads to the fourth question

Question 4: How do you contact the different facilities?

To maintain the privacy of small in-home centers, phone numbers and addresses are not listed. Users can email or call the referral agency to inquire about openings at the in-home facilities.

For larger daycare centers and preschools, more direct contact information is provided on the site.

Question 5: Will the portal be used beyond the pandemic?

Johnson said the daycare resource is something the state of California has wanted to set up for years, and that the crisis finally gave them the momentum to get it done.

"COVID has created and spurred innovation in many places, this is certainly one of them," said Johnson.

The State of California in collaboration with OpenLattice and other partners, built the site in a month.

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