Our region suffers from a lack of many essential services. Affordable childcare is one of those very important services for low income families. This is greatly exacerbated by the increase in low wage jobs that often have variable working hours. This challenge is more severe in communities like ours in which the available jobs often require a long commute and non-traditional working hours. The reality is that the economics of childcare for low income workers is overwhelming. They may only make minimum wage or slightly above, which leaves very little to pay a childcare provider. That means childcare providers have a problem targeting services to low income workers. Affordable and flexible childcare is critical to helping low income parents find and keep jobs.
Check out our resource tab for information and referral services that list the childcare services available in your county.
There are a few government programs that provide financial assistance to low income workers for childcare. These include tax credits and direct subsidies for the worker. Unfortunately, the tax credits only work if you can pay for the service up front and your provider is claiming the income on their taxes. Direct subsidies are limited to pay only a very highly regulated group of providers. Recent increases in training and required technology have reduced the number of providers in our communities drastically, many of whom don’t have access to high speed internet.
The vast majority of children in our communities who need care receive none of these supports. They are cared for by relatives, friends or neighbors who live nearby. The fact that many households are so poor that they have had to double and triple up in housing has made it more likely that an adult is available to provide childcare. But it also reflects the fact that many adults are unemployed and under-employed. It means that life in those crowded households is chaotic and stressful due to the extreme poverty they face. As more and more of the actual childcare provided moves from the subsidized and trained providers and goes ”underground”, our communities lose both the subsidy money and our children lose the valuable child development activities and nutrition available from trained providers.
One of our plans to reverse this trend is to utilize a little known program currently available within the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. The childcare in-home aide program provides a process to certify individual childcare providers to serve eligible children in the child’s own home. Administered through the county JFS offices, individuals are certified as meeting minimum qualifications and receive training to ensure the level of care is appropriate. When certified they are matched with eligible children who need care.
We hope to establish training and support networks to encourage more people to become in-home aides and greatly expand the availability of the service. Currently, childcare subsidies in Ohio are treated as an entitlement. Therefore, there are ample resources available to fund these jobs and services in our communities. This will be especially beneficial to small rural communities that currently lack any certified childcare services.