WSW: Child Care, Brain Development, And Moving From Welfare To Work
As Michigan looks to move more low and moderate income people into the workforce, and close the achievement gap for their children, Bridge has examined the role of child care in both efforts.
Nancy Derringer wrote the story Michigan’s Low Investment in Child Care Costs State and Poor Children Alike. Derringer says child care costs can be enormous for a low-income family.
Assistance can come from a federal program that is administered by the states. A block grant is given to the states with guidelines. States then set the rules and can add more money to it.
Among the criticisms of Michigan’s program is that it only goes to the poorest of residents, Derringer says. And the providers are not reimbursed very much.
“There is a history of reimbursing at babysitting wages… But you have to a pretty generous babysitter to accept some of the rates that Michigan offers.”
Michigan does not compare well to other states. Derringer’s story says Michigan is second lowest in nation in terms of getting families into the program. Other states allow families that make more money to qualify.
Derringer says quality child care is about both education and safety. She says very young children don’t need to be in a structured program. But research continues to show that the ages of 0-3 are an important time for brain development. Derringer says that helps make young children ready to learn when they start school.
Michigan saw a major drop in families using assistance for child care between 2005 and 2014. Derringer says there are a couple of reasons. An audit of the program released in 2008 showed that the Michigan Department of Human Services was not exercising proper oversight. There were people with criminal records working in the program. That lead to tightening of oversight, and fewer opportunities. Plus the economy cratered, and people left the state. And Derringer says lower income jobs were lost, which would have been held by people who qualified for this program.
The state pumped more money into the Great Start Readiness Program in 2014. That’s designed to help families afford pre-school. Derringer says there could be a push in the future to boost child care for lower income families.
Bridge has more stories planned on child care. Derringer says a future story will look at the business case. She says employers are realizing that if you want good employees you have to acknowledge that “kids happen.” More employers are offering flex-time and job sharing benefits. They’re also offering time for things beyond raising young children, like caring for aging parents.