San Luis Obispo County may be getting a new probation center. County officials took steps this week to fund the design of a new building to house all probation services. But this move also calls into question the future of a child care center at the same location, which some parents and advocates say is desperately needed.
San Luis Obispo County’s current probation center was built in 1940. County staff say it is short on space and in constant need of repair. A new, larger two-story building has been proposed at the county’s health campus on Bishop Street. But it’s also the current location of a state and county-funded child care center for children between the ages of two and five.
Wendy Wendt is a local advocate who helps find funding for programs that serve young children.
“100 percent of those children qualify for public assistance," Wendt said at the San Luis Obispo County board of supervisors meeting Tuesday. "So these are the most vulnerable of vulnerable children in our county."
The center in question is the Child Development Resource of the Central Coast (CDRC), which is currently located on the proposed site of the new probation building.
“The kids also all have some level of need for therapeutic support,” Wendt said. "These are particularly high need, high-risk kids."
One CDRC parent who spoke at Tuesday’s county supervisors meeting recounted having her children previously removed from her care, and said the center provided stability when she was unable to. Another parent, Emily Stites, cried while describing to supervisors the challenges of being a low-income business owner in San Luis Obispo. She thanked the CDRC for providing care and meals for her child while she works long hours.
“I know that if I can't give my daughter a nutritious meal, she gets it the next day: breakfast, lunch and snack,” Stites said. “I know that I have a clean and safe place for my child to go all day long...I am so incredibly grateful that SLO County had my back and kept my little family and me and my business going.”
CDRC chief executive officer Michelle Holm told KCBX News the center's lease with the county expires in May. After that, it will transition to month-to-month, while the county figures out what to do with the property.
County officials added a provision Tuesday that design plans for the new probation building include an option to keep the child care center in operation, to be considered at a later date. County officials also say they will work with the center if needed to help find a new location. But many in attendance questioned if the child care center could provide the same level of service if it were moved, and if it could even afford the rent at a new location.