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A conversation between Beth Maczka & Joshua McClure

29 Jun

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On a mission to serve school age children: Beth Maczka, YWCA CEO, recently sat down with Joshua McClure, the Director of our Primary Enrichment Program.

BM: Tell me a little about your background and why you were interested in working at the YWCA?

JM: I’ve been working with kids for 11 years now. As an African-American man, I want to be a positive role model for youth in the community.  I grew up at the YWCA – taking swim lessons, participating in after school and hanging out with my grandmother. The YWCA is welcoming and accepting. I think the mission speaks volumes, and it is important to me, but also coming here feels like home.

BM: How does your program relate to the YWCA’s mission of empowering women and eliminating racism?

JM: We’ve always been the voice and resource for single parents. They trust our staff and many have been a part of the YWCA since their kids were 6 weeks old. The thing that I hear from parents the most is that the counselors really care about the kids, as if they were their own, like family.  As it pertains to the child care and voucher crisis in our community – these parents want to continue all the way through the Primary Enrichment Program. They don’t want to leave.

BM: What do you think makes our After School and Summer Camp unique?

JM: First of all, we are diverse. Secondly, we have programming that will help meet all the different needs of our kids. We are striving to be more than just a “babysitter,” by having  a greater focus on bridging education gaps during the school year and combating summer learning loss during camp. The homework help we offer is a huge benefit to our kids and also their parents. The [Big Brothers/Big Sisters] mentoring partnership program will also help give kids a voice and help develop social skills – especially our shy and less engaged youth. The kids are also really enjoying other partnerships we are bringing into our program, including Girl Scouts, tennis and ABYSA soccer. 

BM: What is your approach and vision for the Primary Enrichment Program?

JM: I want to be involved. Set a new dynamic. Improve the whole ‘feel’ of the program. Make people feel welcome and engaged – the staff, the youth and the parents.

It is important that they [the kids] see me as more than just an authority figure. I try once a week to spend time in each room helping with homework or playing games. I want to show the kids that I care. I really want to be involved. And they love the time we spend together – they remember the games we have played.

I look forward to the program blossoming with more people knowing about us…parents wanting to do more within the program. Cross promotion between After School, Spring Break, and Summer Camp. We are striving to help with education, enrichment, and health & wellness. I want it to be viewed as a great program in our community.

BM: What would people be surprised if they knew about you?

JM: One of my legs is longer than the other.

BM: You’re such a great dancer & teach our popular Hip Hop Cardio classes! That sure hasn’t slowed you down, has it!?

JM: Nope!

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

MLK Day of Service

26 Jan

By Gerry Leonard, Volunteer & Outreach Coordinator

019 - CopyOn January 16, 2016 the YWCA of Asheville hosted volunteers from the UNC-Asheville Key Center as part of our annual MLK Day of Service. To honor and celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr., the YWCA partners with volunteers from local colleges to work with our Primary Enrichment (formerly the School Age program) students to create posters to commemorate Martin Luther King, Jr., and his lasting impact on our society and the YW’s continued work of eliminating racism.

16 volunteers from UNC-Asheville spent their day at the YWCA – instead of taking the day off – and gave back, by giving their time to make a difference in a kid’s life. Volunteers worked 1-on-1 with our Primary Enrichment students, creating posters highlighted with images of MLK and inspirational quotes – along with glitter, feathers and other creative ways children decorate posters.

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This was not only a day of arts and crafts, but a wonderful opportunity for the Primary Enrichment students, K – 5, to engage with college students to understand the role MLK plays in all of our lives and how his legacy continues on. Some of the conversations I heard began with, “MLK had a dream, what is your dream”? The response from our YW kids ranged from grand dreams of flying in outer space or becoming President to more practical responses of wanting everyone to love each other. This in many ways encapsulates the true spirit of what MLK Day is all about: Honoring MLK and continuing to dream of equity and peace, while believing that you can achieve anything you want.

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The YWCA MLK Day of Service is as much of a service as it is enrichment. Many of the volunteers take this time to share with the Primary Enrichment students what their major is, and what they want to do when after college. This is particularly enriching as many of the children in the Primary Enrichment program come from low-income families where their parents are working full-time, often at multiple jobs. For the kids to hear first-hand from students about what college is like provides such a profound impact on their lives. So, as our young students continue to dream of being an astronaut and running for President, these conversations could very well propel them onward to making their dream a reality.

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We’re always looking for committed volunteers! Learn more at www.ywcaofasheville.org/volunteer

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!

YWCA of Asheville Summer Camp Children Respond to Charleston

13 Jul

Our YWCA Summer Camp kids sang a song in response to the tragedy in Charleston.

Video by Katie Christie, School Age Director. Song written & produced by Rickey Payton & Voices United.

“Black is beautiful when you understand
It’s not the color of your skin, a woman child or man
White is beautiful together we are free
We are one we are family”

Beth Maczka Talks with Katie Christie, the YW’s School Age Director

26 May

Beth Maczka, YWCA of Asheville CEO, recently sat down with Katie Christie, the YW’s School Age Director. 

Katie Christie (left) and Beth Maczka (right)

Katie Christie (left) and Beth Maczka (right)

Beth: Tell me a little bit about your background.

Katie: I moved to Asheville from Miami. I grew up in the arts, always dancing and singing. My father is a doctor who wishes he could be a musician! I grew up seeing shows, and got the bug early on. When I was a senior in high school in 1988 I traveled for a month to the then Soviet Union as part of an arts exchange program. That’s when I realized that I could take my art and do something valuable in the world. I founded a nonprofit called Voices United, and did that work for the past 25 years.

Beth: What made you interested in working at the YWCA?

A group of children from the School Age program watching their peers perform dances from across different cultures.

A group of children from the School Age program watching their peers perform dances from across different cultures.

Katie: The mission made me excited – it’s very bold and strong. I love the idea that YWCAs around the world are working towards eliminating racism and empowering women. It’s important to me to feel that I’m working at a place where change is happening, and change is happening right here in this building.

I love working with young people – I’ve been doing it my whole life. I didn’t plan on being an educator, but I have a huge passion for it. It helps me feel hopeful about the world. If you’re interacting with young people you see there’s more in the future than we can imagine.

Katie Christie talks to a group of visitors in our outdoor classroom about the importance of state child care subsidies.

Katie Christie talks to a group of visitors in our outdoor classroom about the importance of state child care subsidies.

Beth: What do you think makes the School Age program unique?

Katie: There’s a really great mix of kids in our program, which is really important and directly supports our mission. We also have a great team of people working with the kids who are enriching the lives of the kids and finding innovative ways of doing that. We’re able to move through the community, pick children up, and take them to different opportunities around town.

All that goes into the YW is also trickling down into the school age program and that sets it apart, because all this other work is going on around them the program then strives to meet the goals of the mission. This is about the kids in the community and how they can see their role in the world as they grow up.

Beth: What are you most looking forward to in the coming year?

Katie: In the School Age program we have a really great core of people and programming, and lots of potential for it to be even more outstanding – the kind of place that people are hearing about and talking about. It’s exciting to think about how to get that done.