New county agency focused on equitable childcare access

On Aug. 29, the County of San Diego released its Child Care Blueprint. Overseen by the new Child and Family Well-Being Department that began in July, the new department is a consolidation of the former Child Welfare Services and First 5 San Diego. The San Diego County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to create the Child Care Blueprint in October 2022 to provide equitable and affordable access to childcare.

County Health and Human Service Agency Interim Director Dr. Eric McDonald said the new blueprint is needed because families cannot find childcare that fits their needs.

“In fact, three out of four parents say it is a challenge to find childcare in San Diego,” he said. “While access to childcare is not a new issue, the COVID-19 pandemic really exasperated an existing problem. Many childcare providers shut down and despite government support and parents returning to the workplace, the industry has not fully recovered.”

McDonald said the Child Care Blueprint puts forward a strong vision for the county and the region building off existing work of the county and community.

County Supervisor Chair Nora Vargas said a childcare conference was held last year to come up with solutions to the problem with input from the community to develop a blueprint. She said the blueprint will address the childcare needs in the community and region and focuses on three main goals.

“First, childcare workforce support training and competitive wages which is extremely important for our community. Childcare facility expansion and renovation. And increased access to childcare for all families,” she said.

Vargas said in California, the average costs of infant childcare is $17,000, which is nearly $9,000 more than in-state public college tuition.

“While families are struggling to find quality affordable childcare it is important to emphasis that childcare providers are struggling to make a living wage with research showing that in San Diego County the medium wage for childcare providers is $15.11, lower than the statewide medium wage.

“These low wages create challenges to routine and to attract new childcare workforce needs in the county,” she said. “We can and should do better. It is our responsibility to do this together as a community.”

Vargas said the childcare workforce consists mainly of women and women of color. She said in California half the workers are Hispanic women, with women of color having lower wages than their white childcare provider counterparts.

“It is not okay that our childcare providers are closing their doors because they are not making enough to keep their doors open,” she said. “It is not okay that we have a shortage of qualified staff to provide this vital care. We must rally the entrepreneurial spirit of childcare providers and remove barriers to help them succeed. San Diego County working families include over 153,000 children, and of those families, 43% lack sufficient childcare spaces. This blueprint will lay out the regional strategy to address these challenges, and additionally establish the new Child and Family Well-Being Department, focusing on family strengthening, build a connected community full of services so that families can actually thrive.”

Child and Family Well-Being Assistant Director Alethea Arguilez said the blueprint shares a collective vision for the region.

“San Diego is a place where every family has access to childcare that meets their needs,” she said. “Childcare providers are highly valued and compensated, and that all childcare settings are places that support healthy development.”

Arguilez said the blueprint focuses on making childcare well-supported with competitive wages, developing and creating safe facilities, expanding childcare programs especially in areas where resources are scarce, and demand outpaces supply. And, ensuring all families have access to affordable childcare, supporting children’s learning, mental and physical health, and emotional development.

“We need your help. Volunteer to be part of our work groups,” she said. “Help shape childcare in San Diego. Invest in childcare in your community. If you have a space in your business or space in general, think about dedicating that space for childcare. Implement childcare friendly policies in your workplace that allow parents stability. Most importantly, become an advocate at the state or national level on this issue.”

To read the San Diego County Child Care Blueprint, visit