Child Care Crisis - September 2003

Denver Women's Commission
Child Care Crisis - September 2003

Prepared by Chaer Robert
For Colorado Woman News
September 5, 2003

Child Care Crisis

Children are our most precious resource. That's what we claim. What do we pay those to whom we entrust the lives of our children? The average full-time, year round child care worker in Colorado earns just $16,650.

Child care providers at Home Away From Home average somewhat less -- about $7.50 per hour, with no health insurance or other benefits. Amazingly, most have worked there for many years. Center Director Helene Kaiwi “Kay” Fleming is grateful for the consistency this offers to her young charges. Most of the 51 children at this Home Away from Home are from single parent families. Over 90% qualify for government subsidized child care. The Center is paid $28. per day to care for children over 2, $33. per day to care for an infant. Other parents pay the full cost-- $145 per week for toddlers, $175 per week for infants and $45/ week for after-school care. Unlike many other businesses, efficiency can improve only so much. An adult can only supervise a limited number of small children. When you do the math, the profit margin is razor thin, which is why many child care centers cannot keep their doors open. Home Away from Home prevails, including academics and fun- like fields trips to the zoo or museum, for which parents pay a $3. per week activity fee. Videos and television are limited to one hour per week.

Some non-profit centers offer an impressive array for services for a lucky parent. HOPE Center supplements government funding and parent fees with foundation and corporate support. HOPE Center offers programs for 175 developmentally disabled and gifted children. Educare, a group promoting quality child care, rates them four stars--their highest rating. Many staff have been there for many years. Dee Ornelas, an instructor in the special needs preschool, has worked at HOPE Center for 37 years. Group leader Lovella Urssery has care for toddlers at HOPE for over 10 years. Deputy Director Gerie Grimes is quite proud that some of their teachers are currently earning up to $26,000 per year, with benefits. Some teacher aides earn up to $21,000 per year. This is still very modest pay, and they are not sure whether they can sustain this level of pay. They supplement staff with "Foster Grandparents"; seniors who earn minimum wage for spending time with the children daily. Parental fees run $155 per week for 2 ½ - 8 year olds. About 65% of their parents qualify for government subsidized child care. Such parents who advance often finds that success has a high price. Parents on government subsidized child care generally pay a co-pay of up to 10% of their income. So losing the subsidy can mean monthly child care bills that jump from $150 to $600.

Over the last couple years, government is helping a smaller percentage of those needing help.

●Many counties, reacting to increasing need and declining budgets, have lowered the ceiling on earnings. Jefferson County covers parents earning only the federal minimum of 130% of poverty level(FPL) - or about $16,000 per year for a mother and child. Denver has just frozen new applications from those earning above 135%, but below 185% of FPL. Other metro counties currently cover as high as 185% of poverty, or about $22,500. Average full child care cost for one 4 yr old in the metro area is $6958. per year.

●Due to the State budget shortfall, 2000 Colorado Pre-School Slots were cut. The program is designed to help at-risk preschoolers become school ready. HOPE Center had 96 children in Colorado Preschool Program. The state funded 72 of the slots. In the upcoming year, HOPE Center will have 44 funded slots and a waiting list of 52 children.

●Meanwhile Congress and the President are intent on increasing demands on mothers on welfare. Currently, parents are required to work 30 hours per week. Parents with children under 6 are required to work 20 hours per week. Under the House proposal all parents will be required to work 40 hours per week. The House proposal includes only $1 billion in new child care money, which does not even cover the current need. Over $5 billion in new child care funding would be needed to meet new federal work requirements, resulting in an “unfunded mandate” on States to keep children in safe circumstances. The Senate is still debating the law as of this of this writing.

For more information contact Stacy Buchananan at Colorado Office of Resource & Referral Agencies 303-290-9088 For information on Hope Center call 303-388-4801 or