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Georgia hotline helps parents find child care

A new statewide hotline was launched this week to help parents find child-care options more easily.

By calling a live operator at (877) All-GAKIDS, families can get referrals from a list of more than 3,000 licensed child-care centers and 5,300 home providers based on location, price, hours or other specified factors.

A searchable database that explains how to evaluate quality child care also is available online at www.allgakids.org.

“It will provide (child-care) providers another opportunity for exposure as far as advertising,” said Debbie Thomas, 45, who runs Loving Hands Home Childcare in Warner Robins.

Smaller child-care operations like hers don’t always have the option of advertising with big yard signs or in the Yellow Pages, she said.

The Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning launched the hotline and database Monday with federal funds.

State officials say the hotline was needed since nearly 65 percent of Georgia families use child care with the demand increasing each year.

“It can be very difficult to find the right child care for your child and your family when there are over 8,000 options,” said Pam Tatum, chief executive officer for Quality Care for Children, the state agency that will man the hotline. “Parents need someone they can talk to about how they can find child care and evaluate it for quality so they know it’s good.”

The agency hopes to serve more than 12,000 families via the hotline this year, she said.

Given the tough economy, many parents are having to make difficult child-care decisions that don’t always serve their children best.

“We’ve heard reports that parents more than ever are taking their kids out of child care because they can’t afford it and putting them with unlicensed care (providers) or with neighbors that might not be safe” or learning appropriate, she said.

Some of the other hotline options include searching child-care centers and providers that are nationally accredited, what age range centers or providers cater to and other quality indicators. The free hotline has six operators and is available from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.

Three of the six children Thomas cares for in Warner Robins came as a result of the Quality Care for Children referral hotline service that provided information just about Middle Georgia child-care options.

With the state now merging data from all sources across the state about child care into one database, Thomas expects the hotline to bring in even more referrals.

To contact writer Julie Hubbard, call 744-4331.

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