This isn't the regular story of simply not being able to afford care—this is the story of not being able to even FIND quality care to be able to afford.
In 2016, after a full calendar year of searching for an infant spot in Burlington, I re-entered the workforce without care for my daughter. Out of desperation, I hired a full-time nanny even though I knew my family could not afford one. After a few months I eventually found an infant spot with an in-home provider who, fortunately, is able to provide high-quality care. But the truth is, even if the care was of poor quality, I would have taken the spot anyway. I would have taken anything.
As an early childhood specialist, I see the urgent need to level the playing field for young children’s present and future success by making quality child care more affordable. Because the brain develops most rapidly before age 5, it’s the best window of opportunity for children to build strong learning foundations. Just as children need to be taught any other skills, they are prime to learn social skills. Actually, these are more important today in these early years because, with the teaching-to-the-test focus our children unfortunately are exposed to from kindergarten up, elementary school teachers simply have no time to teach negotiation and social skills anymore.
The peace of mind I feel when dropping off my son at his child care, though, is disturbed every day by the financial stress I feel about my checking account. Quality child care is expensive and I can feel the financial and emotional weight of each check I write. Even with the 10% tuition assistance I receive through the Child Care Financial Assistance Program (CCFAP) and the child support I receive from my ex-husband, it’s a constant struggle for me to afford child care, my student loan debt and all of our living expenses. And it’s not because I only have one income—before our divorce, my ex-husband and I struggled to pay for child care because we earned enough to not qualify for tuition assistance.
Once I had my son, I began to realize our family’s struggle mirrored the struggles of families from all economic backgrounds across the state. Child care is expensive and it’s forcing Vermonters to ask tough questions like:
- “Can we afford to give our child a sibling?”
- “Do I leave the workforce or do I work two or three jobs and never see my children?”
- “Which can I afford to pay: the child care bill or the heating bill?”
I am the proud single mother of a beautiful little girl. I love being her mom! Every day is filled with learning experiences—for my daughter and for me—and it brings me such joy to see the positive changes happening in her life and to know I played a part in that. But it’s not easy. Every day is a challenge. And I’m not talking about temper tantrums and tummy aches!
As most parents know—especially single parents—raising a child is expensive. And for many Vermont families, money is tight. Food, gas and rent take up most of our paychecks before we can even think about paying for child care, let alone saving money to provide our children with a college education. So for a lot of Vermonters, it’s nearly impossible to give their children what they need for a strong start in life without help. And without being able to send her to child care, I wouldn’t be able to work. Thankfully, my daughter and I qualify for tuition assistance through the Child Care Financial Assistance Program. But not everyone is that lucky.
To the Blue Ribbon Commission:
My name is Jackie Kempton and I am the mother of two girls, living in Peacham, VT. I wanted to share with you my story about child care in hopes that this would better inform the state about the issues that Vermonters are facing with affordable childcare.
My family lives in Craftsbury where finding childcare has become a struggle for many families. Those of us in small towns have no access to large childcare centers and our registered home daycares have been forced to shut down due to expensive and sometimes ridiculous regulations set by the state. Our kids are bouncing from one caregiver to another because we both need to work.
We live in Bridport, Vermont and the school has no after school child care. Because of this, we have had to put our child in private school, paying a tuition we really cannot afford. We have no other option. I know other parents in the same situation who have had to completely change their work schedules to the detriment of their family life.
I am a single, divorced mother of 3.5 year old twins and work full-time in a high-responsibility job in mental health program administration. I make more money than I ever have in my life, but finding and paying for 2 full time child care spots for twins has been an enormous logistical and financial stressor. I have my children full-time and receive some child support, and my income plus child support are above the income cut-offs for subsidized care, but are not enough to pay for full-time care in any of the local centers. We currently manage with a nanny share with another family and I am embarrassed at how meager a salary we are able to pay our extraordinary provider, Ashley. She deserves so much more.
My name is Kate Anger. I recently had a beautiful baby boy and couldn't be happier! However, the impending cost of child care has had my family struggling to figure out what to do. I work in the human services and my husband is a para educator. Combined we make enough to put us right over the income limit for child care assistance.