By Brandon HENSLEY
The Tiny Tots program at Crescenta Valley Park has no plans to become a certified daycare and will keep its shortened hours until December, according to the County of Los Angeles.
Contentious meetings and several emails from angry parents to L.A. County Parks and Recreation special assistant Kay Michelson demonstrate that the two sides have a way to go before being on the same page.
Tiny Tots, a program designed for children ages 3 to 5, was altered this fall due to a previous lack of compliance with state law. County has shortened the hours from a full day to just three – 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. – as well as holding the program four days a week instead of five. This has forced most of the parents to leave the program to find alternate care for their child.
It all has to do with the Child Day Care Act passed by state legislature several years ago, which sets specific requirements and criteria childcare providers must adhere to. Michelson said this week that the county found out CV Park was not in compliance with the law in early July.
A meeting was held on Aug. 3 notifying parents that the hours and days would be reduced, and that set off confusion. Parents were upset that funding is being used for the CV Dog Park and an upcoming skate park, but not to make the necessary changes to allow Tiny Tots to be a legitimate daycare.
But Michelson said that’s not the point.
“It is not about funding,” she said. “It has nothing to do with funding.”
Instead, Michelson said there are no plans to get into state compliance because the park’s mission is simply recreation.
“Daycare is not within our mandate,” she said. “The department is a non-child care provider.”
Hours will remain the same until the middle of December, and beyond that the county will have to determine if it wants to keep the program. Michelson said as many as 17 children were in Tiny Tots before the change, and now there are maybe seven.
Former Tiny Tot parent Athena Pierre said she visited the place this week and saw four children. She took her son Owen out of the program because the hours were too difficult to deal with.
“To me, it’s just the idea that they want to cancel the whole thing,” Pierre said, who said Owen doesn’t have a permanent facility yet. Tiny Tots was also affordable for her and other parents – it cost about $50 to $60 per week – and other schools or daycares are more expensive.
Parents were also upset over the Boys and Girls Club of Burbank coming into the park this summer, and that somehow related to the changes in Tiny Tots, but Michelson said that is not the case and that the club serves older kids.
Michelson said her managers have assured her that park employees would not have their hours cut due to the change – something parents were also worried about. However, two employees this week said their hours at CV Park have been reduced. Samantha Agramon said she worked with Tiny Tots before and had a 40-hour workweek, but now her hours are mostly from 8 a.m. to noon. She noted that working events like the Halloween haunted house this week can alter an employee’s hours.
The same changes were made to the Tiny Tots at Loma Alta Park. America Solis-Vowman had her 5-year-old son graduate from the program this summer, but said her 2-year-child won’t be going into the program now.
She spoke glowingly about the program, including how it kept her son active by going on various field trips. Now, “There’s a lack of support for that age group.”
Solis-Vowman attended a meeting in September at Loma Alta Park with county officials and said, “there was no empathy” from them.
Pierre is one of the parents who have had email conversations with Michelson.
“I feel like she was a lot nicer than what we have been dealing with previously,” she said. “But I don’t think they are trying to come up with solutions.”
“We truly understand any frustration [parents] may have,” said Michelson. “The change was absolutely necessary to be in compliance with state law.”