What is it like for families with young children living in Palo Alto today?
The city of Palo Alto is seeking to answer that question comprehensively in a new study that will take a deep dive into issues impacting parents and young children, from financial security to child care availability. The city recently issued a request for proposals (RFP) to find a consultant to conduct the study.
The last time the city did such a study was in 1989, when the city created a master plan to address concerns over child care access, affordability and quality.
As Palo Alto evolved over the next decades — with changing demographics, an "exponential increase" in nontraditional work schedules and modes, technological advances and a higher cost of living, according to the RFP — so did the needs of the families living in the city.
"We have a great history of being a great place for families and young children but we want to see: Is that still the case?" said Human Services Manager Minka van der Zwaag, who will be the city's point person for the consultant.
The city hopes the assessment will guide "potential investment choices to help meet identified gaps and challenges," the RFP states.
The Palo Alto Advisory Commission on Early Care & Education, which reports to the city manager on these issues, will oversee the process. Its membership represents a range of entities that work with families and youth in Palo Alto, including the school district, after-school care nonprofit Palo Alto Community Child Care, youth well-being nonprofit Children's Health Council and Stanford University's WorkLife Office, among others.
The consultant will look at issues like cost, availability and quality of child care; how the city's growth and changing demographics impact current and future children's experiences; and how different groups, such as immigrant families or parents of special-needs children, have been impacted by socioeconomic changes in the city.
The city is also eager to find out how the local economy is impacting recruitment and retention of early childhood educators, van der Zwaag said.
The RFP asks the consultant to produce findings, recommendations and a phased implementation plan "based on most critical and cost effective improvements in the first year."
The RFP is due Dec. 11. The city hopes to have a consultant on board by February and van der Zwaag expects the assessment will take about six to eight months.
The city has budgeted a maximum of $75,000 for the study.