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Sunday, April 18, 2010

History of YMCA Complaints Raise Questions About Child Safety Should it Take Over ECDC

City Looks At Turning Over School To Berkeley YMCA

By Brian Donahue
Facing a budget deficit, city officials hope to farm out the care of local toddlers to an outfit with a solid reputation that doesn't match reality.
According to critics, the Berkeley/Albany YMCA is an irresponsible, corner cutting daycare operator that has amassed a litany of complaints. The city has fast tracked "outsourcing" as a way to make the Child Development Center pay for itself. Parents and residents have been chagrined by a refusal to consider other options. Many have noted that the city doesn't seem to want to entertain any idea other than immediate outsourcing. The Berkeley/Albany YMCA has stepped into the breach and has been championed as the best operator to take over running the Center, which the City has run since 1979.

In the rush to outsource, the city takes as a given that the YMCA would be just as qualified to run our Child Center as the City itself despite that outsourcing removes accountability to the parents and taxpayers who are footing the bill.

Emeryville resident Brian Carver, a parent of a child at ECDC and a professor at the School of Information at U.C. Berkeley, has noted the city's failure to quantify how outsourcing will affect child welfare. Mr. Carver, after researching the Berkeley/Albany YMCA's record, released a letter showing Emeryville parents and residents the litany of problems at the existing Berkeley/Albany YMCA. Here are some highlights from the letter:

April 6, 2010

Members of the City Council,

As you know, parents of children at the Emeryville Child Development Center (ECDC) have been in discussions with the City Council and City staff to oppose the idea of turning over operations of ECDC to a private provider since parents were informed of this possibility in late December 2009.

ECDC parents were told at a March 25, 2010 meeting that the City Manager currently intends to recommend that the City move ahead with a plan to turn over the ECDC facility to the Berkeley- Albany YMCA.

Until now we have largely opposed this move due to the harm that would come from firing all the excellent teachers at ECDC, many of whom we believe would be unwilling or unable to accept a position with the YMCA—if offered—due either to the lower pay and benefits or to the speed with which certain educational requirements would be mandated. However, we now write to inform you of some facts—surprising to us—that suggest that the very safety and well-being of Emeryville's children may be seriously jeopardized by such a change.

Accompanying this letter are copies of public documents retrieved from the California Department of Social Services, Community Care Licensing Division (CCL). The documents detail a pattern of substantiated complaints and other cited deficiencies at the Berkeley-Albany YMCA's local facilities. The deficiencies cited range from minor lapses to the truly horrifying. To summarize a few that give us the greatest concern:

An incident in which a 3-year-old walked out of the Ocean View facility unnoticed by staff and was discovered by a stranger down the street and later returned to the facility by Berkeley Police. (pp 75-76).

An incident in which a teacher at the Berkeley YMCA 10th St. facility used a threatening voice and caused a child to urinate in their pants. (pp. 46-51).

A report of a director withholding her attention from a child as a form of punishment and proceeding to ignore the child for an extended period of time. (pp. 39-40).

An incident in which a teacher at the South YMCA location hit a child in the back of the head during circle time to get the child's attention. (pp. 27-28).

It boggles the mind to entertain the thought that a parent might go to pick up their child and find that the center's staff has lost their child. However, what we believe the accompanying documents reveal is not an unfortunate string of individually horrifying incidents, but rather a systemic unwillingness or inability to operate child care centers within the licensing framework established by California law.

To view Mr. Carver's research and analysis on the subject in its entirety, visit (94 pages of public documents from CCL).
and (15 pages of public documents from CCL).


  1. I have 3 questions and I'm not attempting to be flippant but I'm curious.1) Brian Carver is obviously a very capable individual when it comes to research, editorial compilation and blogging for the purpose of self advantage. Brian, do you even live in Emeryville or are you taking advantage of the 94608 zip code exception? 2) Why should the City of Emeryville subsidize a daycare center when all other Cities in the Bay Area rely on private operators? 3) Does anyone really think this is in the best interest of the City and its citizens to continue subsidizing a program that benefits so few when there is talk of severe cutbacks in traditionally essential City Services? I'm open to hearing the answers to these questions!

  2. FYI to readers:
    Brian Carver lives in Emeryville with his wife and two young children.

  3. To Anon at 9:56:
    1) It's only Emeryville's elected officials on the school board and city council who don't live in Emeryville.
    2) You are right, no other city operates a pre-school. That's why a google search for "municipal daycare" turns up 503,000 results and "municipal child care" 4,070,000 results and "municipal preschool" 1,380,000 results.

  4. 1)Answer- According to Brian Donahue, Mr. Carver is in fact a resident of Emeryville and in my opinion, does in fact have a legitimate interest in preserving the ECDC. I don't recall asking about the school Board or Council members but it's an interesting response nonetheless.
    2)I will rephrase this question. Are there any other Cities in the "Bay Area" that operate and SUBSIDIZE a Child Development Center(Preschool, Day care)? I'm curious! I didn't find any in the 1,380,000 results but maybe I missed it!!!
    3) No answer or response yet!

  5. In answer to anonymous from 9:36 p.m. 4/18 and 11:12 a.m. 4/19

    2) Not sure why you want me to do your research.
    3) Following your logic, since young people don't enjoy the benefits of programs for senior citizens, those under 65 should be exempt from paying for such programs. People who have not been a victim of a crime should be exempt from subsidizing public safety, childless people shouldn't have to pay for schools....

  6. I can't speak for the city council, but all Emery USD School Board members are long-time residents, and one is an alumni. Also, EmeryUSD has no direct association with ECDC and does not control or influence its future existence. That said, I think ECDC runs a great program and should be saved. This isn't the place to pinch city pennies.

  7. All school board members are longtime city residents and have no control over ECDC. In fact, they have been publicly supportive of their program. The city council is a different story all together.

  8. Any city that lays waste to schools first in a budgetary cutback scheme isn't really a city in my opinion. Schools should be the last thing that gets cut, not the first. This Center, should it be privatized, will be to Emeryville's eternal shame.

  9. what happened at the city council meeting on the 20th?