Children: Child Care

Why Is This Important?
The quality of child care, including preschool, influences socio-emotional and cognitive development, including language learning, problem solving, self control, social skills, and school readiness.  San Mateo County’s high cost of living makes the availability of affordable child care extremely important as many families need two incomes to afford to live here.  Many of the county’s middle- and low-income families do not qualify for state or federal child care subsidies as they earn too much based on guidelines that do not account for regional differences in cost of living. 

What Is a Sustainable State?
A sustainable state is one where there is a variety of child care options that supply enough diversity, flexibility, and affordability to meet parental choices and needs, such as non-traditional schedules and children with special needs.  

How Are We Doing?


  • In 2007, over 82,000 San Mateo County children lived in households where either both parents worked or in the case of single-parent households, the parent with whom they lived worked.  There were less than 22,000 licensed child care spaces, however, just 27 percent of the number of children potentially needing care.

Data sources: California Department of Finance, the U.S. Census Bureau,
and the Child Care Coordinating Council of San Mateo County

  • The supply of licensed spaces met the needs of just 14 percent of infants and 11 percent of school age children in the county.  These figures were unchanged from 2006.  The gap in school age care is made up for, in part, by a variety of license-exempt programs through school district or city recreation programs. Similar funding and attention are lacking for infant and toddler care, making that gap in licensed care particularly troublesome.
  • The supply of licensed spaces met the needs of 80 percent of preschoolers.  This higher percentage reflects an increased interest in preschool initiatives locally and around the state.


  • Between 2003 and 2007, child care costs have increased on average by 10 percent in inflation adjusted dollars.  This included a 1 percent increase from 2006.
  • The largest increases have come in care for school age children in family child care homes (22 percent increase from 2003) and preschoolers in child care centers (21 percent increase from 2003).
  • In November 2007, 4,181 children were on the county’s Centralized Eligibility List, a countywide list of children from low-income families who are eligible and waiting for subsidized care.  Without adequate funding for child care subsidies, families can remain on the list for years waiting aid.


Average Cost of Child
Care in San Mateo County, 2007

Age Group


Family Child Care







School Age

$375/month (part-time)


Data source: Child Care Coordinating Council of San Mateo County


Closing the Gap:
Several initiatives aim to address the child care shortage. The SmartKids Child Care Facilities Fund issues grants to providers to help with startup costs, training, facility improvements, and equipment purchases, as well as facility improvement grants to licensed, nonprofit child care centers serving low-income children. The San Mateo CARES (SaMCARES) incentive program seeks to improve the quality of care by encouraging child care professionals to pursue child development training and promoting the retention of qualified providers. ” /> 


See appendix page 72, CLICK HERE. Researcher: Sarah Johnson

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