For parents in Craig, finding child care has been a struggle
Since the beginning of the pandemic, parents across the nation have struggled to find quality child care that fits within their budgets, and parents in Craig are no exception.
But here, that’s not a new development.
Connections4Kids is a group that helps Moffat County parents find licensed local child care providers. Executive director Betsy Overton said that child care scarcity in Craig is older than COVID.
“Honestly, it’s been a problem for a very long time,” Overton said. “We just don’t have enough licensed child care providers.”
According to Colorado Shines, a resource from the Colorado Office of Early Childhood that helps parents navigate childcare, there are five licensed caretakers within Craig city limits (excluding preschools and public schools). Within these five facilities, a total of 42 children are served in the community. Only one provider in Craig advertises that they support children with certain special needs.
Craig resides in what Overton and some early childhood researchers call a “child care desert,” defined as “any census tract with more than 50 children under age 5 that contains either no child care providers or so few options that there are more than three times as many children as licensed child care slots.”
This problem is faced more often in rural communities like Craig.
Tanya Ferguson, director of the Boys and Girls Club of Northwest Colorado, said that a couple of childcare providers have closed recently, which might be a cause for the influx of parents looking for their services. The Boys and Girls Club is also still operating under COVID-19 restrictions, limiting their capacity somewhat, but Ferguson said that recent expansions have allowed the facility to have seven groups of 15 children. Currently, parents must pre-register before bringing their children.
“In the summer, it’s been nice,” Ferguson said. “We have a pretty good core of 80 to 90 kids that are here every day, but we have around 120 kids that are registered.”
In the summer, parents pay $10 a day for the club to serve their children breakfast, lunch and a snack. Staff members also take groups on small field trips — which is included in the price per day or in the $25 annual membership fee. When some daycares charge up to $200 per child, the cost can add up, especially for families with multiple children.
“When I was doing home daycare, you didn’t necessarily have school-aged kids every day, and you didn’t make as much money. It’d be better to have somebody under five years old,” Ferguson said. “You’re going to need kids there every day as a provider to make your money, so I think a lot of the home providers don’t necessarily take school-aged kids.”
Some families may qualify for Colorado Child Care Assistance Program (CCCAP), which is childcare assistance provided based on household income. To qualify, guardians must be working, seeking employment or participating in training or education; have at least one child under 13 years old (or 19 years old if the child has a disability or special needs), and make less than 85% of the State Median Income and less than the defined maximum for their county of residence.
For a family of four in Moffat County, the household’s income must be at or below $4,039.17 per month at the time their application is filed. Four out of the five licensed caregivers accept CCCAP.
In a 2020 report from the Colorado Department of Human Services, families in Colorado spend on average 21% of their income for infant care; for someone making minimum wage, this could be as high as 66.4% of their income. This contributes to landing Colorado at eighth in the nation for most expensive child care.
In the report, over a third of polled child care providers discontinued or considered discontinuing their services in 2020, and 52% of families that could not find childcare said that they could not find a provider that had openings for their child’s age group. On average, the yearly cost-per-child can exceed the $7,000 mark.
“These analyses show that infant care is unaffordably high for families at all quality levels, and that subsidies do not come close to supporting the true cost of care,” the report says. “The result is that providers must subsidize the costs of infant care through preschool tuition, and families are faced with long waiting lists for infant care, as providers are less likely to provide slots for infants.”
Despite filling in gaps in child care for some parents, Ferguson added that the Boys and Girls Club still has a waitlist for certain age groups — especially children over the age of ten. Ferguson said that middle school aged children make up the majority of the waitlist, and second, third and fourth graders are the largest age group that shows up to the Boys and Girls Club consistently.
“I don’t know what the answer is,” Ferguson said. “And I don’t know what the secret is. I just know we had 101 kids here yesterday. So we’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing.”
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