Keizerites create a child care coalition

Children gather for story time at the child care center inside the St. Mark Lutheran Church back in 2021. 

Keizer families will have a new resource for child care when an around-the-clock center opens next week, July 1, located in downtown Salem, 790 Marion St NE at the St. Mark Lutheran Church.

The Amiguitos and Family Child Care Center, a part of the Oregon Child Care Coalition, is a new nonprofit child care facility for parents in the Salem-Keizer area.

Childcare throughout Oregon has been an issue for many as the state was designated as a child care desert, meaning that for every one child care slot there are three kids that need it. 

Pricing for childcare varies, depending on the level of need the child has and is split based on part time care and full time care. 

Infants (6 to 12 months) are $990 for part time and $1,485 full time per month. 

Preschool (3 to 5 years) are $924 for part time and $1,386 for full time per month. 

School aged children (6 and older) are $748 for part time and $1,122 for full time per month. 

Special needs children (newborn to age 10 who need extra care due to a disability) are $990 for part time and $1,485 for full time per month. 

The project was originally meant to be located in Keizer, though, according to Ramiro “RJ” Navarro, the board’s at-large member and the Keizer representative for Cherriots Salem Mass Transit District Board, finding a location to the center was difficult because of limited land zoned for such a purpose. 

Besides Navarro, other Keizerites connected to the coalition are Sandra Castro, the executive director, and Aymee Narvaez, the board’s secretary. 

Navarro recently walked a reporter through the facility to display the classrooms, talk about the curriculum and share how interested parents can get signed up. 

The center’s current goal will be to operate around the clock. 

Spread out over three floors, the center will open with five classrooms with another three scheduled to open later. 

The classrooms and facility will support children newborn to middle school age with around 16 to 18 children per class for older kids, a maximum of eight for those six months to 2 years old. 

“With those five classrooms, we’ll have about 75 children that we’ll be serving per shift with three shifts over a 24-hour period, so it’s 225 kids that we could potentially serve out of this location each day,” Navarro said. 

The organization is also working with the Oregon Employment Department to arrange an internship program at the center. 

The state requires two childcare providers for a classroom and, going a step further, the child care coalition plans to adopt a policy of having a third position as well, to be filled by interns. 

According to Navarro, interns will be those interested in getting into professional child care and need in-person experience to become a child care provider. 

“We’ll be supporting them as they complete their hours of online education they’ll need in classroom experience. They’ll be able to complete that here,” Navarro said. 

Navarro noted that the facility will also provide aid and advice to those wishing to open their own child care facilities in other areas. 

“Say they come here, get their experience and their training, but they want to go back to Keizer and open up childcare, or they want to go to Silverton and open up childcare, they can do that,” Navarro said. 

It is this drive to aid that influenced the board members to create another child care resource to help Keizerites overcome the numerous issues related to child care in Oregon. 

One issue is the rising cost, with the average cost of infant care in Oregon at $1,135 per month and child care cost for a 4-year-old at around $838 per month, according to a 2023  report on childcare in Oregon. 

“If you’re a parent who is working 40 hours a week, but you’re making $17 an hour, that could almost be your whole check. Then you still have to worry about the rising cost of rent, the rising cost of food,” Navarro said. 

“Employment-related day care is really important to these parents and it hasn’t been funded to the level that it needs to be.” 

Oregon offers employment-related daycare for working families, though in many cases, such as income, families may still not qualify. 

Navarro noted that creating a childcare nonprofit eliminated some of these issues. 

“We’re doing the nonprofit because we’re able to apply for grants and subsidize what for-profit businesses can’t,” he said. Navarro also noted that, previously, child care in Keizer was primarily done by smaller businesses such as Enchanted Childcare

What’s offered? 

The fully capable and loaded kitchen located downstairs in the child care center.
Photos by QUINN STODDARD of the Keizertimes 

The current five child care rooms offer a variety of activities. 

One large room, which contains a rolling divider will be split into freshwater and saltwater themed rooms, complete with bright, child-appropriate artwork. 

Another room, designated the safari room, has a cavalcade of jungle creatures adorning the wall with all of the painting being done by Salem spray paint artist Desha Jones and his daughter. 

Murals in the “safari room” at the child care center painted by local artist Daisha Jones. 
Photos by QUINN STODDARD of the Keizertimes 

The library room has early reader classics donated, in part, by St. Mark Lutheran church. 

The library at the care center with books donated by St Mark Lutheran church.
 Photos by QUINN STODDARD of the Keizertimes 

The curriculum covers several milestones for children such as using full sentences when speaking or differentiating various items when shown them, according to Navarro. 

“It’s really important for the development of the kids because if we’re not evaluating that stuff early on then by the time that they get into kindergarten or first grade, they’re already behind,” Navarro said. 

One of the play toys children will have access to when at the care center. 
Photos by QUINN STODDARD of the Keizertimes 

How would I qualify to bring my child here? 

“We’re offering childcare that prioritizes serving working families and that’s everybody,” Navarro said. 

To qualify, those interested must complete a registration form online or in-person and go through an interview with center personnel. 

“The parents figure out if this is something that works for them and if not, then we totally get it and have partner providers that we can refer them to,” Navarro said. 

Contact Quinn Stoddard
[email protected] or 503-390-1051

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