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Childcare Resources for Actors


Getting Help w/ Childcare While Pursuing Your Career

An Interview with Clarinda Ross


Clarinda Ross and her children -Frank, Gus, and Clara
Photo by James Watts

Equity Councillor Clarinda Ross is a Los Angeles-based working actor and is the parent of three children, ages 18, 7, and 4. Clarinda joined AEA in 1984, and started her theatrical career in Atlanta, where she worked at such theatres as the Alliance Theatre, Atlanta Shakespeare, Theatre in the Square, the Horizon Theatre and Art Station. She was elected to Council in 1989 and moved to Los Angeles in 1995 to continue pursuing her career. On a daily basis, she juggles the roles of working actor, mom, and Council volunteer. She chairs the Western Regional Board's Parent's Committee and the National Strategic Alliance and Merger Committee.

National Childcare Resources
A national listing of agencies and websites to help with childcare issues and information. Click here

In 1999, Clarinda chaired the Tri-Guild Task Force on Childcare for the Working Actor. The task force was made up of AFTRA/SAG and AEA members with young children. The task force spent two years investigating ways to solve the unique dilemma of finding high quality drop in childcare for actors. The Task Force ultimately formed a partnership with two resource and referral centers in the LA-area, Connections for Children on the Westside, and CCRC in the San Fernando Valley.

According to Ross, "These centers turned out to be a jackpot for the special needs of actors. It was a great marriage of professional groups. We, the professional actors, had a need for flexible high quality childcare, while the resource and referral centers had professional childcare providers looking to build their businesses."

Q) What typical problems do "actor-parents" face?
A) We often have unpredictable schedules. We often work at night. Actors don't fit into the standard 40-hour work week mode that most daycare centers cater to. You get a last minute call-back, or a commercial audition, and you have be there with little or no advance notice. You shouldn't have to sacrifice being a working actor in order to be a good parent. This problem is especially hard for women as our child-bearing years are also our prime earning years. Several of our actor/parents expressed their desire to spend time with their young children especially when they weren't working. We often heard, "Why must I enroll my child in a program 40 hours per week, when I may only need 6-10 hours each week to go on auditions." But there are ways to work it out.

Q) How do I get started finding appropriate childcare?
A) Ask friends for recommendations. Also check out churches, and community centers.*

The internet can be a great place to start. Many state "Resource and Referral" agencies have lists of approved providers and facilities that you can access online. Our Task Force's research found a plethora of licensed, professional childcare businesses are located in private homes. If you're looking for a solution, don't focus on the building, focus on the provider. The task force spent hours reading CA state statues regarding childcare providers and many additional hours in face to face meetings with providers. What we found was quite heartening; in CA we have strict measures in place for childcare providers. In order for a provider to be listed with the state's Resource and Referral Agencies, providers must first be licensed and inspected by the State. Most of the parents in our Task Force ended up placing their own children with an "in-home" child care provider- the reason - flexibility. But many also found that perfect fit of a great and caring environment for their children.

Here's a useful link to get you started:
www.childcareaware.org - a great resource, national website organized by state with a local search feature and lots of information. Enter your zip code to be linked to the Childcare Resource and Referral Center in your area.

Once you've gotten a list of providers in your area, start making calls and narrow down your choices. Tell them the age of your children and clarify that you'll need flexibility. Keep in mind that last-minute, drop-in care can be your life saver.

Many times you can eliminate providers over the phone, cull down your list to those you'd like to visit in person. If you like a certain provider but she seems reticent about drop in care go do a site visit anyway - we actors, can be pretty impressive, and once you appear and explain your situation - the provider is more likely to go for the drop-in or part time care idea.

Q) What should I look for when I visit the facility?
A) 1. Ask questions - remember, you're auditioning the provider!

  • How many children is the provider caring for? What age ranges?
  • What is the staff-to-child ratio? (This is usually regulated by state law).
  • Do you accommodate special needs? (dietary restrictions, sick children, late pick-ups, handicap accessibility) (We were blown away by the special needs choices we found in LA)
  • Do you offer special programs? (field trips, story hour, languages, music, cooking, art)
  • Do you have a daily schedule of activities?

2. The most important thing is to trust your own instincts as a parent. You know your child better than anyone. What's important to you?

  • Do you like the way the staff interacts with children?
  • Do the children seem engaged and happy?
  • Do you get a good feeling from the staff? Do they seem to enjoy their work?
  • Is the facility/home clean? Are there centers for activities?

Once you've found your ideal situation, you can further reassure yourself by calling your local Department of Social Services Community Care licensing to see if there have been any difficulties, or reported incidents. Fact check: make sure the facility is licensed.

Q) How much do they charge?
A) Don't be afraid to negotiate: childcare facilities usually have standard, hourly rates. However, in-home childcare providers may be more flexible with their rates and hours. If you find someone you love, develop a relationship with the provider by visiting the site so that your child is comfortable and gets used to the facility.

Let the provider know that though you may be "sporadically" employed, you are a professional; this is your JOB - just like theirs is childcare. In one panel discussion we had "show and tell" we passed around our resumes and talked about acting. Maybe, they saw you in that play, film, or commercial. Don't be afraid to brag - remember civilians think we live a glamorous life! We found that once we explained the nature of our business, providers did not view us as "flaky or unreliable". Our need for drop-in care is not due to lack of organization or planning on our part- it's de rigueur for our business.

We received this tip from the professional childcare providers we met with in our panel discussions; Providers are much more likely to agree to "drop-in" care if you set up a regular part-time schedule with them. Say you sign up your child as a regular with the provider on Tuesday mornings, use this time to go the grocery store, get new headshots, visit your agent - remember him/her? This allows your child to get acclimated to the provider and the other children. Now the provider knows you and your child and she's much more likely to help you out when that last minute audition crops up.


Here are some National and State websites where you can get more information:

National Association of Childcare Resource and Referral Agencies
Website: www.naccrra.org

National Resource Center for Health and Childcare Safety
Website: nrc.uchsc.edu

State of California
Website: www.rrnetwork.org

State of Illinois
website: www.ilchildcare.org

New York State
Website: www.ocfs.state.ny.us/main/becs/referralagencys.asp

Florida
Website: www.dcf.state.fl.us/childcare/


Childcare Referral Resources in New York City
The Actors' Fund is committed to helping parents find the best information on locating quality childcare as well as childcare resources. Parents needing assistance in exploring options can contact The Actors Fund at 212-221-7300 ext 119. The following local resources and referral organizations can assist parents in locating childcare, provide education on choosing and evaluating childcare providers as well as provide a host of information.

Child Care, Inc.
Phone: 212-929-4999
Website: www.childcareinc.org

Day Care Council of New York, Inc.
Phone: 212-206-7818
Website: www.dccnyinc.org

Child Development Support Corporation
Phone: 718-398-6370
Email: dcsdsc1@aol.com

Committee for Hispanic Children and Families
Phone: 212-206-8043
Website: www.chcfinc.org

For additional information and resources please contact Childcare Aware, a national resource organization at www.childcareaware.org.



 
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