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Parents Struggle to Understand Child Care Programs

Arkansas is doing better than some other states, with almost half of pre-school age children enrolled in classes. (Sierra Black)
Arkansas is doing better than some other states, with almost half of pre-school age children enrolled in classes. (Sierra Black)
May 12, 2016

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - Wading through the paperwork involved in getting government help to pay for child care can be overwhelming to already overworked parents. A new report by the Center for American Progress looked at how difficult it can be for low-income families to navigate an underfunded child-care support system. The study is called "Jumping Through Hoops and Set Up to Fail."

Its author, Judith Warner, senior fellow for the Center for American Progress, said as child-care costs keep rising, quality pre-K and after-school programs are out of reach for many working families. She also said keeping up with the government forms that are required can be daunting.

"Imagine doing all those things you already do while in addition you have to file a degree of paperwork that goes far beyond all those medical forms and permission forms you normally file just for school," she said.

The report takes a state-by-state look at child-care costs. In Arkansas, the figure is $11,000 a year for parents with an infant and a four-year-old. The good news is 47 percent of preschool-age children are currently enrolled in classes. The bad news in the report: in all 50 states child care costs more than median rent.

Warner adds parents who qualify for assistance with child-care expenses often aren't given a lot of help to navigate the system.

"You're dependent on people who may or may not lose your paperwork, and may or may not want to help you," she said. "And if things go wrong, your child loses a stable, good place in child care that brings them so many advantages."

The Center for American Progress report makes some recommendations, including less paperwork for parents and more child-care funding. Last fall, the group also proposed a "High-Quality Child Care Tax Credit," worth up to $14,000 per child, based on family income. The money would be paid directly to a child-care provider chosen by the parents.

The full report can be read online here.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - AR