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The invisible child care crisis: school age children

6 May

 

Beth Maczka, YWCA CEO

Beth Maczka, Asheville Citizen-Times Guest Columnist

 

Last week’s op-ed highlighted the Invisible Childcare Crisis in early childhood, but the crisis doesn’t stop when a child enters kindergarten.

Access to affordable, quality childcare remains the biggest barrier to a woman’s economic security, even as her child transitions from early learning programs to school.

For Melanie, a childcare voucher for her two school age children allowed her to work and support her family. Working increased her self-confidence and supporting her family increased her self-worth. Ironically, earning a small raise tipped her over the income limit for eligibility, resulting in the loss of her childcare voucher. We call this an “income cliff” and it is very real in our community. Melanie’s situation is not unique. This is happening to hundreds of families in Buncombe County, and we all lose.

Parents lose opportunities to advance in their careers and support their families; employers lose valuable employees and are forced to re-hire and re-train staff. And children lose the chance to gain critical educational enrichment during their most formative years.

In the last 18 months alone, 242 of Buncombe County’s children lost access to school-age childcare.

A primary reason families lose school age childcare vouchers is due to income eligibility requirements being tightened during the 2014 NC legislative budget process. Previously families could earn up to 75 percent of the State Median Income (or $4,187 monthly) for a family of 4 to qualify for childcare vouchers for children ages 6-12. Now that same family can only earn up to 133 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (or $2,688 monthly).

For example, Joyce is a mother of three and makes $32,000 or $2667 gross monthly. That allows her three children to receive services valued at $412 per child per month for a total of $1236 per month. Joyce receives a raise of $500, and she is now making $32,500. Under the new income guidelines, she makes $ $20 over the monthly limit, causing her to lose the $1236 a month in subsidy. A raise of $500 a year means that Joyce will now need to spend an additional $14,100 each year for childcare, or 43 percent of her income. This is a crisis.

Another income cliff occurs when a child who’s been receiving a voucher from birth to age 5, turns 6 years old. The NC state income level for a younger child is $48,504 for a family of four, but when the child turns 6, a family with earnings over $32,256 will lose childcare assistance. This happens immediately, regardless of when in the school year the child turns 6, leading to disruption of care, relationships and routines. Parents still need to work and their children are not able to care for themselves. The crisis is growing.

School age childcare programs are essential for families needing care till the end of the work day or throughout the summer. And low-income children who most need support to participate in quality afterschool and summer camp programs are also most likely to be impacted by summer learning loss.

Quality afterschool and summer camp programs keep children safe, provide nutritious snacks and meals, and provide essential academic supports including homework help, fun educational activities, and enriching field trips.

Remind your NC State representatives that school age children need afterschool care and summer camp to keep them safe and learning, and working families need access to year-round care for their school age children.

Ask your representatives to implement these recommendations immediately:

Make the income eligibility for early learning and school age programs consistent at 200% of poverty.

Create a system to pro-rate fees rather than forcing parents with all or nothing choices. If a family is $200 over the income limit, charge them a slightly higher co-pay rather than removing the full subsidy support.

Support the continuation of a child’s school age services for the school year during which they turn 6.

Working families need school age childcare now.

Beth Maczka is CEO, YWCA of Asheville.

This op-ed is endorsed by the following 5-star centers and child advocacy groups in Buncombe County:

Buncombe County Partnership for Children

Children First Communities in Schools

Asheville Jewish Community Center

Child Care availability is an invisible crisis in our community

29 Apr

 

Beth Maczka, YWCA CEO

Beth Maczka, Asheville Citizen-Times Guest Columnist

Cultures are judged on how they care for the most vulnerable. How will our community be judged when the care for our youngest children is considered? Early learning programs are essential to nurturing children socially and academically while providing critical support to working families.

 

We all know that we have a less than 1 percent vacancy rate for housing in our community. Did you also know that we have well less than a 1 percent vacancy rate for child care?

Affordable child care is the biggest barrier to women’s economic security. Without child care, you can’t look for work. Without child care you can’t work. Without child care it is difficult, if not impossible, to complete your education.

For Mary, finding an available child care opening meant being able to get, and keep, a job for the first time. Yet for hundreds of families, the lack of childcare spaces is keeping them from working.

Over the last year and a half, we have lost 176 slots from our community’s child care services. For a number of reasons, including a 5-month freeze on state child care voucher payments, three 5-star-rated child care centers and two family child care homes closed.

Even if you can pay full price, there are virtually no open places for children, with the longest waiting lists for infants and toddlers. And if you have a child care voucher, a state subsidy to support low-income working parents, there is no place to use that voucher.

A recent survey of child care providers revealed only six openings for children in Buncombe County out of a population of 4,160 children enrolled in full-time care. This is a crisis.

Child care costs more than in-state college tuition. Child care tuition for an infant is about $12,000 a year. In-state tuition to UNC Chapel Hill, including books, is $10,033.

Even at the cost of $1,000 per child per month (or higher), 5-star child care centers lose money on every child under the age of three, due to the high standards of care and the required adult to child ratio. No wonder some centers only serve 3- to 5-year-olds and existing centers can’t afford to expand infant and toddler rooms.

Add on the fact that the state child care voucher reimbursement rate for an infant in Asheville in a 5-star-rated center is $757, while the same state-funded reimbursement rate for an infant in Charlotte is $870 and $1,066 in Raleigh. Yet the cost of living is higher in Asheville than it is in Charlotte or Raleigh.

We also have a critical shortage in early childhood teachers.

Given the challenge of profitability, paying competitive, if not living wages, to these hard-working saints who care for our children every day is challenging. No wonder we are seeing lower enrollment rates at community colleges and at universities in early childhood education.

Centers are also faced with the rising health insurance costs, which are projected to increase by 16 percent this year. It is no wonder that centers have closed.

Remind your N.C. state representatives that we have a less than 1 percent vacancy for child care slots, a critical child care teacher shortage, and that these conditions are unacceptable for our children, our families and our local businesses.

Ask your representatives to implement these recommendations immediately:

Make the child care subsidy market reimbursement rates fair — based on cost and adjust the subsidy market rate allocation so that it is more equitable.

Increase support for teacher training and compensation for birth to 5 years of age. School age teachers are not the only ones that need a raise!

Our child care center infrastructure is fragile, and we can’t afford to lose any more centers or family child care homes.

Working families need childcare now.

Beth Maczka is CEO, YWCA of Asheville. The mission of the YWCA is Eliminating Racism and Empowering Women. The YWCA of Asheville provides 5-star child care services from birth to 12 years of age along with a range of programs that address disparities in education, health and economic security.

This Op-ed is endorsed by the following 5-star child care centers and child advocacy organizations in Buncombe County:

Buncombe County Partnership for Children

Children First Communities in Schools

Verner Center for Early Learning

Asheville Jewish Community Center Childcare Center

First Presbyterian Church Childcare Center

Mission Hospitals Child Development Center

Nurturing Children at the YWCA & at Home

5 Jan

By Wanda Harris, Director of the YWCA Early Learning Program and Empowerment Child Care

In our 5-star Early Learning Program at the YWCA we have the children in 5 classrooms, divided by age. Everything we do is centered around helping the children in our care develop, and play is a great way to help encourage this.
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In the infant room (6 weeks through 12 months) love and attention provides the stimulation they need.

In the toddler room (12-24 months) they need more one-on-one interaction on the floor. They need a lot of back-and-forth dialogue because they’re building up their language skills, leading to what we call a ‘vocabulary explosion.’ They love music and things that make sounds and talk to them. You have to be deliberate with what you do because they’re learning how to mimic.

In the Pond classroom (24-36 months) it’s even more about language. They know what they’re saying and language skills are exploding. They love to be read to and to “read” to themselves. It’s the independent stage – ‘I can do it for myself and by myself.’ Emotions are big, and friendships are developing. They are learning how to start being independent and can be encouraged in this direction – to put on their own coats, and put their own socks and shoes on.

In the Bees and Pre-K room (3-5 yrs.) it’s important to have activities that develop the children’s fine and gross motor skills – they are learning how to cut paper, maneuver with their fingers, jump and run. They’re also getting better at following directions – knowing that they can listen and how to listen.

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Beginning in the toddler room we focus on the importance of good nutrition and exercise in developing brains. Our Rainbow In My Tummy nutrition curriculum means freshly prepared meals with whole grains, fruits, and vegetables and no added sugars. To further our children’s knowledge and awareness of nutrition we have our own nutritionist does a segment called “Farmer’s Market Friday” where the children do taste testing on new healthy fruits and vegetables each week. This is imperative because the foods we put into our bodies play a very important role.  We also stress the importance of at least an hour of outdoor playtime every day.

Outside we encourage free play, where the children are using their imagination and developing their gross motor skills – they run, jump, skip, utilize the riding toys, and even balancing activities. We also have a board outside with attached pots and pans to make music.

Starting at age 3 every child in our program starts taking swim lessons in our solar-heated pool. The water is a great place for children to get exercise and have fun with friends and family, and it’s also very important for their safety that they learn how to swim from an early age.

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Families don’t need expensive toys to play with their children! Here are some l0w-cost items that are good to have on hand for playing games:

  • Take a plastic ziplock bag, fill with oil, non-toxic paints or just food coloring and seal – let the child make patterns and enjoy squishing it around.
  • Take sticky clear contact paper, let the children put different colored tissue paper on it, and put it up on the window – children will enjoy rubbing it to feel the textures and make designs.
  • Create “sensory bottles” by filling clear bottles with oil, glitter, buttons, food coloring, pipe cleaner and then seal them with hot glue.
  • Make a dress-up box filled with old clothes and accessories to encourage dramatic play.

Finally, talk to your children as much as you can. If you know a second language, even if it’s basic, start it when they’re one year-old. As soon as they can say yes and no they can start saying “si” or “uno”; it’s important to start early.

Wanda Harris is Director of the YWCA’s Early Learning Program. She is a Level 3 Child Care Administrator, State of North Carolina, holds an MA of Education, is an MBA Candidate, and has 28 years of child care experience.

Farmer’s Market Friday: Prunes!

4 Dec

Today for Farmer’s Market Friday Ms. Alex, the YWCA’s Nutrition Coordinator, brought a special guest – CEO Beth Maczka!

Beth sang a song about prunes, and the kids all got to learn about how prunes are made – they even got to taste a bite. Everyone (well, almost everyone) loved “nature’s candy.”

Learn more about the YWCA’s Drop-In Child Care and full-time Child Care.

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YWCA Awarded SNAP ED Grant – Helping Us Make Even More Rainbows!

30 Nov

058Since 2012 the YWCA has provided healthy meals and snacks from our Rainbow in My Tummy Program for our children in our Child Care, After School, and Drop-In Child Care. Rainbow in My Tummy was created by the Verner Early Learning Center and is a way to help child care centers feed their children healthfully while still adhering to government guidelines. We stick to whole grains, mostly fresh fruits and veggies, lean proteins, and low fat dairy. Almost all of the food that comes out of our kitchen is made from scratch by our stellar kitchen staff every day. Read “A Day in the Life of the Rainbow In My Tummy Kitchen” here.

084Now, we’re proud to announce that we will be running SNAP Ed programming starting this fall, making us the first implementing agency in Western North Carolina! SNAP Ed is a grant designed to get Nutrition and Physical Activity education to SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) recipients, as well as the general public.

As part of SNAP Ed our Nutrition Coordinator, Alex Mitchell, will run Color Me Healthy, a nutrition and physical activity curriculum, with our 3-5 year old Child Care students.  Summer Camp students will get to participate in a physical activity curriculum and participate in regular food and nutrition activities as well.  We will also hold events for our parents to learn how to make good nutrition and physical activity choices at home.060

“Nutrition and physical activity education is so important to start early, and SNAP Ed funds will give us the chance to provide these lessons,” says Alex. “I’m personally excited to get to interact with our kids and families more, and to teach information that they will then take out of the YW and into their homes and communities.”

Do you have an idea for what we should call this “snappy” new work at the YW? Email your suggestions to marketing@ywcaofasheville.org!

Advocate to Make Quality Child Care Accessible to Working Families!

23 Apr
Is making sure our children are in quality, safe child care important to you? Then become an advocate!IMG_4832

The recent changes in the child care subsidy eligibility for families will impact over 12,000 school age children in NC.

IMG_4814Our legislators need to hear from us today. Pick up the phone and make your voice heard!  Talking to an elected official may seem intimidating, but they want to know what you think and how they can help. Please use the script below as a guide and make your calls as soon as possible.

Staff will most likely answer the phone and ask for your name and where you live.
When calling Senator Hise, acknowledge you are calling because he serves on the Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee

SCRIPT:

Hi, my name is ___________. I live in Western North Carolina.
Please make the eligibility guidelines the same for families with school age children as with young children. Also, bring back sliding scale co-payments for children in part-time care.
IF APPLICABLE: My family relies on vouchers to provide affordable, safe, high quality care for my children while I work.
Without my voucher I would [fill in what might happen if you didn’t have your voucher, for ex: reduce work hours, place your child in a less desirable care arrangement, quit your job, stop paying other bills/or fill in with what has happened since you lost your voucher.]
Thank you for your consideration.

Senator Ralph Hise:  (919) 733-3460
Representative Josh Dobson:  (919) 733-5862

Other ways you can advocate:IMG_4828

  • Become an advocate on the child care subsidy program and invite your friends, congregants, parents & students to send a message to the NC Legislature using the tools provided in Children First/ Communities In Schools’ Child Care Subsidy Advocacy Toolkit.
  • Sign this Petition: The cost of quality care and learning centers can be $7,000 – $10,000 per year for a child. The child care subsidy helps low-income, working parents meet that expense. By using the subsidy program, children are in safe, quality settings that low income parents otherwise find impossible to afford. Advocate for the restoration of eligibility for all families making up to 200% of Federal Poverty Line. http://childrenfirstcisbc.org/petition


Here are quotes from some of the families at the YW who will be impacted:

IMG_4842“I am a hard working mother who has had vouchers since my oldest was born and I have been able to work my way up. [With] my vouchers being taken away, I could go backwards. This choice of the legislature is going to have more families in poverty, and more children could be neglected because they might be left at home or somewhere where it is not safe.”  – Jasmine, Medical Industry

“[My daughter] and I had increased housing costs and health care costs, and a number of other financial expenditures that are a burden as the only income earner in our family. In January when I do lose my subsidy I will need to take on more work, or find another job, or begin sending [my daughter] home as a ‘latch key kid’ at 8 years old.”  – Elena, Outpatient Mental Health

“I am a full-time working single mother. It is a constant struggle just to pay regular every day bills. With the increase to paying the full amount for child care it will be almost impossible [to meet expenses]. If there is nothing that can be done I will regretfully have to withdraw my three children from the [YWCA afterschool] program. Withdrawing my children will result in them not getting the proper afterschool homework help or getting good activities and exercise.” – Hope, Hotel IndustryIMG_4822

Since October, the YWCA has kept families in the program by subsidizing 75% of their rate increases.  We cannot continue doing this without help. Please consider making a gift today to help us keep families working and children learning and growing.   Thank you.

Meet Our Amazing YW Kitchen Staff!

31 Mar

At the YWCA we provide breakfast, lunch, and snack to our Child Care Center, as well as snack to our School Age program. It’s important to us that we help the children in our Centers to be more comfortable trying new foods, and to get quality nutrition while they’re attending our programs.

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In order to do this, we have been trained in Rainbow In My Tummy®, and use Rainbow in My Tummy recipes and menus. Rainbow in My Tummy® is a healthy eating program developed by the Verner Center for Early Learning.  It focuses on feeding children a wide range of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins while also staying in line with nutrition requirements from the Federal Government.

To compliment Rainbow in My Tummy® the students in our Child Care Center also participate in Farmer’s Market Friday, where they get to taste test a new fresh fruit or vegetable.

Farmers Market Friday 12.12.14 001Most every Friday you can find our Child Nutrition Coordinator, Alex Mitchell, in each classroom passing out samples of produce and talking with the kids about how and where the plants grow, what part of the plants we eat, or how the food tastes, smells or feels. The children, and staff, get to sample foods they may never have had before in a positive environment that encourages trying new foods.

So who makes all of this delicious Rainbow In My Tummy food®? The YWCA’s amazing kitchen staff! Learn more about them below, and contact us if you’d like to come on an Empower Hour tour – which includes a Rainbow In My Tummy® lunch.

Anna RectorIMAG1919

How long have you lived in Asheville?
All my life and then some
How long have you worked at the YW?
9 years
What are your duties in the kitchen?
Check in weekly delivery and put away, make lunch and breakfast, prep for the next day, keep food organized, maintain kitchen.
What is your favorite part of working in the kitchen?
Helping others
What is your favorite Rainbow in My Tummy® Recipe?
That’s a wicked question, there are too many to choose one!

Bettie EddingsIMAG1980

How long have you lived in Asheville?
All my life
How long have you worked at the YW?
6 years
What are your duties in the kitchen?
Fix snack for the after school
What is your favorite part of working in the kitchen?
Working with the staff
What is your favorite Rainbow in My Tummy® Recipe?
Wonderful Waffle Sandwiches

Famia CarsonIMAG1893

How long have you lived in Asheville?
17 years
How long have you worked at the YW?
2 ½ years
What are your duties in the kitchen?
Dish washer/kitchen assistant
What is your favorite part of working in the kitchen?
Coworkers, the positive environment, the fresh fruit juice!
What is your favorite Rainbow in My Tummy® Recipe?
Oven roasted asparagus

Elaine “Pinky” BurtonIMAG1981

How long have you lived in Asheville?
50+ years
How long have you worked at the YW?
6 months
What are your duties in the kitchen?
To prepare snacks for child care which includes infants, toddlers, 2 years olds, 3-4, and 4-5
What is your favorite part of working in the kitchen?
Learning to make healthy snacks
What is your favorite Rainbow in My Tummy® Recipe?
Yogurt, granola, and fresh berries

Learn more at www.rainbowinmytummy.org