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As Child-Care Costs Reach Crisis Level, How Can WA Help?

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Tuesday, July 18, 2017   

DES MOINES, Wash. – With kids out of school for summer vacation, working parents face the higher seasonal costs of child care. In Washington state, care for a child younger than four can range from $8,000 to nearly $16,000 a year, which is about the same as in-state tuition for a public college.

Nicole Jones is the director of Ages in Stages Childcare in Des Moines and has a son going into fifth grade. She was receiving subsidies for her son's child care through the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services' Working Connections Child Care program until a recent raise of about $100 a month made her ineligible.

Jones says her co-pay jumped from $65 to nearly $600.

"I'm that parent that really needs it," she says. "I work every single day to support my kids and have them go to school every day, try to, you know, have a good meal for them at school and meals for them at home. You have parents that really need that child care."

She says in summer, full-time child care costs her nearly $800 a month. Jones says she's been lucky enough to gain a little leeway with her boss when it comes to payments.

A report from Child Care Aware of Washington found the state lost more than 1,600 child-care providers over the past six years.

Carolanne Sanders, a policy associate with the Economic Opportunity Institute, says the low wages child-care workers such as Jones receive are part of the reason for the state's child-care crisis.

"Our child-care workers are overworked, they're underpaid, they're leaving the workforce, and this is having a real detrimental effect on our child-care system as a whole, and it's really straining families to a breaking point," she explains.

Sanders says the current system where every family has to fend for itself isn't working and a greater number of public dollars needs to be invested at every level of government, including programs such as Working Connections.

"We need those funds going straight to families, we need those funds going into the centers so that they can open up more slots for low-income families and working families, and we need those funds to be going towards teachers," Sanders added.


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