Day Care Dilemma: A WGEM News In-Depth Report - WGEM.com: Quincy News, Weather, Sports, and Radio

Day Care Dilemma: A WGEM News In-Depth Report

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Child playing at Cheerful Home in Quincy. Child playing at Cheerful Home in Quincy.
Miller in class at QU. Miller in class at QU.
Girl eating oranges at Cheerful Home. Girl eating oranges at Cheerful Home.
QUINCY, Ill. (WGEM) -

It's more expensive than ever to raise a child in the United States, and many local parents are feeling the strain.

Parents in the Tri-States can spend on average between $5,000 and $13,000 per year on child care, according to Child Care Aware of America.

Single mom Courtney Miller is trying to juggle it all. She is working toward her master's degree in counseling at Quincy University, interning at Liberty High School and holding down a job at Quincy Mall.

I take it day by day and week by week.

With her hectic schedule, Miller said she relies on her boyfriend and other family and friends to help her care for her 9-year-old son, Ayden. He also goes to day care.

"He goes everyday after school until I'm out of work, sometimes he goes in the morning," Miller said.

Miller said she's thankful to have good child care, but she said it is difficult to afford.

"She is really great and I really appreciate everything she does," Miller said. "She earns every penny of that paycheck I'm sure, but it's just a struggle."

Miller's story is not unique. Holly Prisner from West Central Child Care Connection explained she often sees area parents struggling to afford child care. 

It's hard for a parent to get ahead these days. They make a certain amount of money a week so if they are trying to buy groceries, house payment, transportation and then to add child care on top of that. That's a hard pill to swallow.

West Central's program is still being funded but due to the budget impasse, the state recently changed the qualifications from 183 to 162 percent of the federal poverty level, meaning fewer parents are eligible. A single parent with one child currently qualifies if they make roughly $540 a week or less.

For those who don't meet the revised state guidelines some local centers, like Cheerful Home in Quincy, offer sliding-scale programs based on income and the age of the children. 

"We have 176 children right now and we have 100 children using our sliding scale fee program," Elizabeth Harmon, the executive director for Cheerful Home, said.

Harmon and Prisner both said it's important for struggling parents to reach out for help.

"Parents struggle because they are right over that limit of meeting qualifications for the child care assistance, but yet they still have to pay for the child care to be able to work," Harmon said. "We don't turn anyone away based on income."

Prisner says finding quality child care should also be a top priority.  She says it's important to look for a safe environment as well as a good fit for the child.

"Go to their home unannounced," Prisner said.  "Look at the facilities do they have age appropriate toys for the children.  Is the environment safe?  Those simple things can put your mind at ease." 

Prisner says while West Central can't recommend a provider, they can provide parents with a list of providers in their area with openings available.

For many working parents the summer months mean the kids are out of school and the cost of day care can sometimes double.

Despite a lack of funding from the state, Quincy's Teen REACH is planning its summer program.  It provides a safe place for kids to go for four hours a day and it is free to attend. 

"We're going to give you something to do for four hours," Dennis Williams the program director of Teen REACH said.  "Feed you, give you a snack, and give you some life skills also."

Williams says Teen REACH is also planning several day trips this summer including putt putt golf and swimming and planting a garden.

Miller plans to graduate in May with her degree. She is looking forward to more stable financial future and time with her son. In the meantime, she's taking it one step at a time. 

"It's day by day week by week," Miller said. "We try to plan it monthly, but sometimes in the summer months it gets to be crunch time around here and it's a lot less spending on fun things."


RESOURCES IN THE TRI-STATES

Illinois:

West Central Child Care Connection
510 Maine Street, Suite 610
Quincy, IL  62301
(217) 222-2550 or 1-800-782-7318

Cheerful Home
315 South 5th Street
Quincy, IL  62301
(217) 228-0654

Quincy Teen REACH
P.O. Box 708
Quincy, IL  62306
(217) 223-1927
Illinois Department of Human Services (online application for child care assistance)

Missouri:
Child Care Aware of Missouri
1-866-892-3228 
Email: referralcenter@mo.childcareaware.org

Missouri Department of Social Services (online application for child care assistance)

Iowa:
Iowa Department of Human Services- The Centralized Child Care Assistance (CCA) Eligibility Unit
Phone: 866-448-4605 

Iowa Department of Human Services (online application for child care assistance)

Other Links:


CHILD CARE COST REPORT

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