If you’ve been around Martinez for a while, you may remember the opening of the Peter L. Spinetta Family Law Center in 2001. It was the first new addition to the patchwork of buildings that make up the Superior Court in downtown Martinez since the A.F. Bray Building was completed in 1988. Having been a court employee for 28+ years, I recall how exciting it was to be a part of this monumental occasion, the opening of a new court building! Everything was so modern, fresh and new, and was considered a “state of the art” piece of architecture.
Unfortunately, the Court and County were in the throes of a budget downswing due to the statewide recession in 2001 which caused the Court and County to scale back on the design of the planned “Children’s Waiting Room.” This room was actually part of the initial design of the Family Law Center, but for the reasons stated above, there were such limitations on available space after the mandatory offices and courtrooms were laid out, that it ended up being squeezed into the middle of the lobby, under the stairs, shaped like a canoe, with no viable access to data and power.
The Court had no additional funding to arrange for outside childcare services, so parents were required to stay with their children, which really defeated the whole purpose of having a place for their children while they conducted their business!
The legislature in its wisdom authorized courts to increase civil filing fees for the support of Children’s Waiting rooms in all counties. The use of these funds was, however, limited to staff and general operating costs – not construction. This has meant that Contra Costa, despite all the best of intentions, has not been able to the redesign and rebuild the architectural anomaly in Martinez into a suitable Children’s Waiting Room.
The good news is that, by design, the New Arnason Justice Center in Pittsburg, currently houses a viable space for a Children’s Waiting Room adjacent to the Self Help Center. It will certainly meet the critical needs of the court customers we serve in and around East County who cannot afford baby sitters and may not have extended family available to watch their child when they must visit the court.
We are very pleased to announce that we will be able to provide professional drop-in childcare services through Kidango, Inc. a licensed nonprofit, public benefit corporation that has been in the childcare business for 31 years. Kidango currently provides quality childcare on a drop-in basis to families who utilize the Children’s Waiting Rooms located in Oakland, Hayward and San Leandro Courthouses.
The highly-qualified Kidango caregivers will provide enriching and educational activities that are developmentally and culturally appropriate for the children under their care in a safe and nurturing environment. All Kidango childcare staff must pass a comprehensive background record check and screening.
Kidango will provide one full time Lead Caregiver /Master Teacher and one full time Caregiver/ Teacher at the Arnason Justice Center. The Center will accept drop-ins, ages 2 through 12, Monday through Friday, excluding Court holidays and weekends. The Children’s Waiting Room is open to all persons, other than jurors, who have
business at the Arnason Justice Center in Pittsburg.
We are in the final stages of completion and plan to open the Children’s Waiting Room this fall. We are excited about the new service and the benefits it will provide to our community.
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