An Interview with Clarinda Ross
Clarinda Ross and her children -Frank, Gus, and Clara
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
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?
Q) How do I get started finding appropriate childcare?
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:
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?
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?
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?
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
National Resource Center for Health and Childcare Safety
State of California
State of Illinois
New York State
Childcare Referral Resources in New York City
Child Care, Inc.
Day Care Council of New York, Inc.
Child Development Support Corporation
Committee for Hispanic Children and Families
For additional information and resources please contact Childcare Aware, a national resource organization at www.childcareaware.org.