BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — Child care, every parent needs it at one point or another but not every parent can afford it. During the pandemic, many parents who still had to work had to seek out help filling up child care facilities all over.
“For me to work, I have to have the childcare and it's so expensive,” said Vanessa Bonanno, a mother of four who has three children who require daily child care.
Bonanno has struggled for the last three years, a large part due to the cost of child care. In the last three years, she’s struggled with homelessness as a result of not being able to find a job. Over the years, she’s been able to stay with family which has helped with housing and child care at times. But now most of her family members have left, and the single mother has to find a more permanent solution.
Even in times when she was able to find a job and find possible child care, she faced a whole new set of issues.
“I would have to turn down a job in order to pay for child care, and I can’t pay for childcare unless I have a job,” Bonanno said.
Bonanno has since found a job, but she says her current job has her working outside the hours of her child care arrangement. While she’s applied for assistance through Community Connections, they’re only willing to pay for the regularly scheduled hours — meaning anytime her children remain in care, she has to pay out of pocket.
"I had to really just, apply for the government assistance. And I never wanted to do that just because it's a lot that they require, so with the Community Connections, I just had to wait and wait," Bonanno said.
Movement aims to improve child safety in family courts
On Friday, Congressional Democrats, who have been pushing for a social policy bill that would have capped families’ child care expenses at 7 percent of their income, agreed to put their $1.85 trillion social policy, climate, and tax package on hold. While the bill is on hold, the Biden Administration has introduced a Build Back Better Framework Plan.
The plan claims it will:
- Save most American families more than half of their spending on child care, deliver two years of free preschool for every 3- and 4-year-old in America.
- Give more than 35 million families a major tax cut by extending the expanded child tax credit.
“One income alone goes completely to child care costs,” said Laura Torres, a mother of four with three children in child care.
For Laura Torres, she says she and her husband have relied on the additional child tax credit to help them pay for child care. The couple has four children, three of whom are in a private child care facility. Torres estimated between her husband and her their net income was around $100,000 a year.
With both of them working full-time and Torres also being a full-time law student, she said circumstances beyond their control have made it difficult to pay for child care.
“We didn’t expect to have three toddlers at one time, but we had a set of twins so that was unexpected,” Torres said. “As a full-time student and employee, we would love for the kids to be there five days a week but we just can’t afford it.”
While most are at loss for how to fix the problem, many parents agree child care costs play a major role in their lives and impact big family decisions.
Torres said even though they’re able to pay for child care, she and her husband have decided to forgo getting another car and the family and child care costs will likely impact future living and career decisions.
“We have identified, especially here in California, for a Head Start grant, it’s challenging," said CAPK Head Start Assistant Program Director Jerry Meade. "As we're looking at $15 an hour as a minimum wage coming towards us a lot of our families are going to be considered over income."
Head Start is a federally funded early education and development program for low-income families. The program is run through Community Action Partnership of Kern and Meade says for the first time in a while they have an unprecedented amount of openings for not only low-income families but moderate-income couples as well.
“We link families that are over income to other sources of subsidies that may be available through the Superintendent of Schools Office and other opportunities for subsidized child care."
Like many centers that offer child care and development services, one of the struggles Head Start has faced is the difficulty to staff their facilities.
"To find a BA degree, early childhood education teacher in our communities today is very difficult," Meade said.
Because Head Start is federally funded, their pay rate is compared to similar school educator wages, but if CAPK can’t make the case for a certain wage, it can be difficult to remain competitive.
Like other child care facilities, Head Start looks to employ those who have the education and desire to work in child development — which puts them in competition with higher-paying school districts and educational facilities.
“Changes we have is the differences between an Early Head Start teacher, a Head Start teacher, an early childhood education, versus a liberal studies degree for working on a credential to become an elementary school teacher," Meade said.
Still, Meade says in many of their facilities they have openings for low to moderate-income families and he encourages anybody to apply — whether or not they believe they meet the eligibility requirements.
Changes in regulations to support that are constantly being worked on to support that,” Meade said. “But I do see that it is going to continue to be a challenge for families to find not only adequate but fully skilled early educators.”