Friday, January 20, 2012

Too Much/Too Little: What Do Families Do When They Make Just a Little Too Much To Qualify for Subsidy but Not Enough to Afford Child Care?

I have been astounded and saddened by the number of families that have been recently dropped from the subsidy program they were working with to pay for their child care. The majority of the reasons were because the family received a small raise or got a few more hours a week in their position. While that is great for the family, it is certainly not enough of an increase in income to afford child care cost, especially in single parent families. A recent blaring example is a single father who was dropped from any assitance because the company he worked for paid him to get medical benefits. They considered this as income, even though the money went straight to provide medical insurance for him and his 5 year old son.
In the Early Childcare/School Age Care field, most recent conversations that have to do with the families we are caring for, there are a large number of families enrolled that are single parent families whose child care expenses are being paid by a state or county government agency. Consider these startling statistics:
· The poverty rate for female-headed families with children was 38.5 percent in 2009, compared with 8.3 percent for families with children headed by a married couple
· More than five in ten poor children (51.5 percent) lived in families headed by women
· More than half a million single women with children (12.5 percent) who worked full-time,
year-round in 2009 were living in poverty
To maintain employment and be able to provide for their families, women need access to affordable child care. Without affordable child care, many of these women have no choice but to leave jobs or school and sign up for cash assistance. There have been three families in the last two months leave our program and move with family because they didn’t make enough to afford child care but made just a little too much to qualify for assistance.
A report by Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity - Child Care Matters: Building Economic Security for Low-Income Women found that quality child care and education centers are often unavailable in low-income communities or impractical for women with shifting work schedules. Their research indicates that when a mother works a variable schedule, she is more likely to rely on informal care, which is typically provided by family and neighbors and is often less reliable than formal child care settings.
At Madison Street Church CDI/You’re Invited Children’s Center we strive to be able to offer a warm, quality program to families at an affordable rate. It is also important to be family friendly with our schedules, basing schedules on each families needs, flexible tuition costs, and we offer reduced tuition scholarships and we allow drop in care for families needing emergency/transitional child care. We partner with a women’s shelter to provide the children of the women in their program quality drop in child care while they are in a transitional phase of their lives. We are currently looking at more effective ways to meet the needs of those in our community and neighborhoods that are in a transitional time in their life and need quality child care to enable them to complete schooling and training, attend required meetings, go on job interviews and other necessary appointments that are not possible to attend with their young children. Madison Street Church is offering reduced tuition opportunities to families in need of school age before/after school care for families that make too much to qualify for subsidy but dont make quite enough to afford quality child care. Our hope is to partner with other agencies that have the same desire to walk with low income families through caring for their children, encouraging them as parents, and providing other services as needed.

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