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The child care dilemma ... local families share their struggles
The Daily World - 2/13/2020
Lack of child care impacts a lot of families in the region, for a variety of reasons. Many have difficulty juggling employment with finding child care at all — and that they can afford.
Shift work, low wages and other factors give some an option they don't want to face: exiting the workforce and relying on assistance so they can raise, feed and shelter their children.
Recently, TheDaily World reached out to get some stories from local families dealing with their own child care struggles.
To protect their privacy, respondents will be identified only by initials.
T is a married professional, raising two children under the age of 3.
"Before we had our second child we were both able to work full-time and afford to send our daughter to day care three to four days a week, which was about $550 a month," she said. "However, having our second child we are stuck in a hard spot."
T's job is shift work; so is her husband's.
"We have been looking for child care for our two kids for a few months now only to find that all the places we have contacted are well out of our budget or not willing to work with our schedules," she said. "I have been quoted $950-$1,400. That's about half your monthly income if you work a full 40 hours a week at our local minimum wage."
While the couple is fortunate enough to make "decent money," they as a result don't qualify for any child care assistance.
"As hard as it is to find child care that is affordable, it has been impossible to find child care that will accept part-time days," she said. "So if I wanted to send my children to a local center I would have to pay for three to five days a week even if my children only went two days a week."
Like others in her position, T has had to do some serious number crunching to find a balance between the number of days she can work and afford child care.
"I am only able to work three days a week, two of which my husband is home with the kids, which totals to be 27 hours a week." She said she has recently been promoted and feels that "my limited ability to work full-time has put a damper on the duties of my position."
Then there's the Catch-22 to the Catch-22. She wants to further advance professionally by returning to school, but is "faced with the fact that if I decided to go to school I would need to work full-time to make sure my kids had a spot for them in day care, of which I would have to fork over a large amount of paycheck and hope that we can still provide for them under our own roof."
T has asked other parents and found that many rely on family to help with the children. Unfortunately that is not an option for her family.
"I don't want to work just to pay for child care and maybe have enough money to buy groceries with what's left," she said. "I want to be able to work to provide for my family and ensure my children have a future and education, but right now while they are not in school full-time we are just working to live. Deciding on growing your family shouldn't be determined by how you are going to afford to go to work."
M is the mother of three boys. She pulled no punches when speaking of her frustration with with her child care issues.
"Not only is it extremely hard to find a job in the Podunk town I am currently residing in, but it is also extremely hard to find a trusting sitter or a cost-friendly day care," she said.
She quickly pointed out the blame falls not on child care providers. She said she is "well seasoned in the area of children" and "will not insult day care providers or even preschool teachers because they study very hard and are expected to follow every single rule to perfection, so much so they are constantly stressed. So it's like, bruh, I get it. You should be getting paid an arm and a leg."
She's been told day care would cost her $1,000-$2,000. "Even with a good job that is half a paycheck gone."
M's current situation includes a fiance who works to support the family while she provides care for the children, keeping her out of a workforce she would like to join.
"I want so desperately to work. But we live in a day in age that mothers can't afford to go to work, unless they have a night job, which runs the risk of not being with your family during actual family time and leaving everything of that nature up to your loved one," she said.
Her fiance makes a decent wage, but after even the most basic expenses – food, housing, utilities, transportation – what's left over for the family doesn't add up to a fraction of the cost of child care.
"We're trying so hard to make it. If I want a day job, after paying what I have to for my kids to be watched so they can take half my earnings, we'd have extra," she said. "But guess what? They don't have any more openings for my baby at the daycare. So I have to start all over. Wait for a good babysitter to come along. Or wait for day care to have an opening."
A is a single mom of three children age 5 and younger.
"I struggled to find a safe, reliable and affordable child care provider until this recent school year," she said. "Many in the Harbor were not available or could not take all of my children. I could not afford to miss work due to lack of care."
A qualifies for state-paid child care. However, she may be up for a full-time position — she works part-time for her current employer. If she gets on full-time, she faces losing her child care copay.
"As a result, I will not be able to afford to send (two of the children) to daycare and I face not being able to take the full-time position," she said. "So you see, it is a never-ending cycle."
Two of the children are too young to attend school full-time and need to go to daycare after preschool.
"I would like to work full-time to support them, but if I accept the raise, then I won't be able to afford the child care needed to take care of them during the day when I work."
B is a single mom of three and is fortunate to have a state child care subsidy. Weekdays her kids stay at an Aberdeen facility and she said she is very pleased with the staff there and the care they provide. She further appreciates the fact the same staff have been on site for years; "It's reassuring when the same workers are still there years down the road," she said.
However, her job requires weekend and holiday hours when her facility isn't open.
"I don't have a huge family who will babysit my kids on weekends and holidays when the day care is closed," she said. "I'm at the point where I might lose my job because I've had to call off on weekends and holidays because I have no one to care for my children."
B makes minimum wage. At one point she had found a provider to watch the kids during off hours, but the hourly cost was $3 per hour more than her own hourly wage. Add in rent, car payment, insurance and other essentials, "I am grateful I can just keep a roof over our heads."
This is the second of a three-part series on the region's child care crisis. Part three will center on providers.