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Child-care initiative teaches women to start an in-home business

The Bakersfield Californian - 10/23/2023

Oct. 22—Brittany Sanders wouldn't be able to work and study part-time like she does if she didn't have access to a place like Auntie Babies Family Childcare in southwest Bakersfield. But it's the educational component she likes most about it.

On Friday morning, within minutes of dropping off her son Kaisen at the part-home, part-school, the 3-year-old was sitting happily in a converted garage counting beads on an educational toy like an abacus, getting one-on-one math instruction from a worker earning pay and training credits at the business.

As Sanders described the business and its service, before taking off to work with her mother-in-law, "This is a family curriculum."

It's that and more. Recognition is growing locally that businesses like Auntie's Babies may be a key to unlocking some of Kern's entrepreneurial potential and workforce engagement.

The latest effort to expand in-home child care in the county is an online class starting this week at the Kern Women's Business Center. It will teach participants about many aspects of starting and running such an enterprise, from licensing and finance to human resources.

More help may be on the way as the B3K Prosperity local economic collaboration looks to bring more resources to an activity with a demonstrated lack of supply and excess of demand.

Research by B3K suggests the county has a disproportionately high number of women who want jobs but can't accept them because of an obligation to take care of their own children at home. B3K also found women in Kern are much more likely than men to be out of work.

"This suggests that the availability and/or cost of child care is a barrier that prevents women from participating in the local labor market," B3K Interim Executive Director Justin Salters said by email.

His group hopes to help the Women's Business Center find new opportunities and investors, he said, as a way of lifting household incomes and increasing job access.

"Even more, programs like the Kern Women's Business Center's provide an additional boost to the region by supporting wealth-building among the diverse entrepreneurs who own in-home child care facilities," Salters added. "It's a terrific illustration of what 'deep prosperity' looks like in real life."

The classes starting Monday are being funded with the help of a state grant received by the WBC's parent organization, Mission Community Services Corp. Program Director Norma Dunn said some of the impetus for the course came from the Biden administration, which she said views in-home child care as a way to help get members of military families and others back into the workforce.

Aspiring and existing business owners who want to enroll in the class must first sign up at https://www.mcscorp.org/ to become clients of the WBC. Over the course of weeks, Dunn said students will be guided through the many steps of establishing and running an in-home child care business, from certification and loans to business planning, nutrition, operations, marketing and preparing their home to start receiving children.

She said the idea will be for entrepreneurs to start small, with fewer than five children to take care of, then gradually take on additional business.

"We know there's potential for growth," she said, adding she hopes to enroll participants across Kern County.

The owner of Auntie's Babies, 46-year-old Shanita Ford, benefited from earlier classes put on by the WBC. She recalled having concerns about a day care center she had enrolled her son in almost a decade ago, back when she was working in health care for prisoners.

She opened her own business in 2015, when she had to work out of her 600-square-foot apartment and a converted garage. Things didn't work out with her neighbors, so she bought the home where she now has 13 clients and several helpers whose labor is subsidized by a local workforce training program. She gets client referrals from Community Connections for Childcare, a locally focused agency hosted by the Kern County Superintendent of Schools.

The walls of Auntie's Babies are painted in bright colors and lined with books, educational toys and interactive materials of all kinds. Outside there's no shortage of play areas and equipment for children with different interests.

Ford said she tries to foster a family setting where children forge a connection with staff and other children.

"Children, they learn and grow better with building relationships," she said.

Following lessons that take kids through an early childhood education curriculum, there's a 45-minute nap time. After lunch it's free play for the rest of the afternoon. Sometimes Ford leads students on field trips, such as a recent visit to a pumpkin patch. State inspectors stop in randomly to check things out.

Ford, or "Auntie" to the toddlers and older kids she cares for, said she recommends in-home child care for people looking to start a new business. But she quickly adds that it's "not for everybody."

"You need to love it," she said. "It's teaching them order and values and respect."

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(c)2023 The Bakersfield Californian (Bakersfield, Calif.)

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