Child care in our area has been an issue for years, but in late December, it got worse. That’s when the local Department of Social Services said due to a shortage of money, there would be a drastic reduction in families that could receive child care subsidies.
The shortage of subsidy funding has not only affected area parents, it’s also left a tremendous impact on child care programs across Oneida County. One center was even forced to close after the cutbacks in enrollment, which were caused by the county running out of money.
The Mid York Child Care Coordinating Council says its always looking for grants but it seems that the money is just not there.
“I have an 8-year-old daughter and I have a hard time finding a babysitter for her,” says Doreen Brodt, Utica resident and mother.
“There is a growing need, however as everybody knows, government funds don’t grow – The funding for child care remains fairly stable, while the demand for child care and child care subsidies goes up,” says Lorraine Kinney-Kitchen, director Mid York Child Care Coordinating Council.
The Oneida County Department of Social Services does offer day care assistance for recipients who meet the strict eligibility requirements – that’s 200% on the federal poverty level. But this requirement makes many previous child care aid recipients out of luck.
“I’m looking for a job right now and I may be getting hired and if I do get hired I don’t know if I’ll be able to get day care because they can’t pay for it. And sometimes they have day care available and sometimes they don’t,” says Brodt.
The lack of child care in the Mohawk Valley has been an on- going problem for years, but in today’s tough economy, some parents say their struggling to afford the quality day care they deserve.
“So then I’m stuck in a corner and I don’t know what to do and it’s like your paying just about all the money you get from the job. So a lot of people don’t even work because they’re like why work? I’m paying the babysitter all the money that I make,” says Brodt.
The Child Care Coordinating Council says each year the demand for child care increases, and even though parents may be eligible for help, they say the money is just not there.
“More and more parents are eligible but the funding for child care doesn’t increase- we advocate with elected officials to increase the amount of dollars that support child care but we’re not always successful,” says Kinney-Kitchen.
And child care isn’t cheap. The council says child care is the second greatest expense in a family’s budget, just under housing.
“The average cost for a full year of child care is the same as tuition for a SUNY school, not counting fees and room and board,” says Ellen Perrone, coordinator Mid York Child Care Coordinating Council.
So why is the government cutting funds?
“There’s just not enough money, there’s just not enough money,” says Perrone.
Many area employment centers do offer assistance in day care, but some parents say when they go to these employment centers, they’re often put on waiting lists for up to 8 months. But with the new fiscal year just starting, the Mid York Child Care Coordinating Council urges parents to call their local Department of Social Services because help may be available.