Nobody was happy in the situation that we were in
When asked if child care in Vermont is affordable, Kathleen Bookchin takes a very long pause before responding: “Affordable is such an interesting word. You have to make it affordable – you really don’t have a choice. For our family, we were lucky, we had two working parents, and we were able to afford that.” Kathleen and her husband were fortunate enough to have space in their budget that could accommodate the costs of full-time child care, but they didn’t realize that simply finding a space that worked for their family would be such a challenge.
Like many young parents, Kathleen and her husband were initially dismayed by the length of the waiting lists at the facilities they liked. They looked at child care close to work and home, but those options were limited: “The daycare that we wanted to be in closer to work was a 15 month wait, and the daycare closer to home was a two year wait.”
So they chose the only option that seemed viable at the time: they stayed on the waiting list at their ideal location, but started their son at a facility with openings that happened to be located an hour from their home. This meant that dropping off her son at child care before work and picking him up after work added an extra two hours to Kathleen’s day. They all quickly tired of the added stress of this arrangement. Kathleen remembers, “It wore my husband out, it wore me out, it wore my son out – no one was happy.”
When the spot finally became available at the facility near their home, Kathleen and her husband were relieved that the two-hour daily commute was over. But at this new location, they faced another child care challenge that plagues the system here in Vermont: high caretaker turnover. She says, “He had about three different caretakers in the year that he was there. And they were all excellent and loving and caring but it’s just hard for the family to adjust to.”
Ultimately, they made the very tough choice to have Kathleen stay at home with her son, giving up the family’s main source of income and their health care coverage. But she says it was the only way to give her son the care that he needed: “Eventually we just decided that nobody was happy in the situation we were in. Do we drop our main salary and drop our health care so that we can have a more stable home life and a more stable situation for our son? We eventually decided to take that leap.”