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The lack of available and affordable childcare is one of the biggest barriers for parents returning to or succeeding in jobs. WNIN's Sarah Kuper spoke with parents, non-profit organizers and lawmakers about the problem.

Non-profit Organizations and Lawmakers Address SWIN Child Care Shortage

SWIN ChildCare Series photo
Diana Reagon-Sallee

According to state data, the average cost of child care in Vanderburgh County is $137 per week, per child. That’s ten dollars cheaper than the state average. It's cheaper, but it's not more affordable. Because the median household income in Evansville is nearly fifteen thousand dollars less than the state average.

Here, a family with two children will spend more than one third of their monthly income on child care.

There is child care assistance in Indiana as part of the Child Care and Development Fund. To qualify a household of four must make less than $2800 a month.

But should one or both parents succeed in their career, get promoted and get a raise they could find themselves going over what some call the “cliff”.

“And it’s not just childcare voucher, its Medicaid, SNAP benefits, it’s really called the benefits cliff. We have had employers tell us that employees decline pay increase. If there was a magic wand, there would be some kind of funding that would help employees over that cliff so they could be self-sufficient.”

Sara Worstell is the executive director at Southwest Indiana WorkForce. She and her staff work as a conduit between job seekers and employers. Her job often entails helping people with their child care search. In many cases, she refers them to Building Blocks another non-profit in the area. Aleisha Sheridan is the CEO there:

“It’s not financially feasible – they make too much to be on the voucher. There is that cliff effect. I can’t afford it but I make too much to get the service. By the time I bring my paycheck home, I’ve made five cents.”

Parents and local staffing and child care experts interviewed for this series all called upon elected officials to look into the lack of available and affordable child care.

In communicating with Vanderburgh, Warrick and Posey County state representatives and senators, only one, district 77 democratic representative Ryan Hatfield consented to an interview. Hatfield’s district encompasses most of the city of Evansville. He says he understands the struggle. He hopes recent legislation passed by the Indiana General Assembly will provide some relief but only some.

“Senate bill 2 is a good start but it’s just a drop in the bucket. Legislators need to get real.”

Senate bill 2 allocates millions of dollars to supporting families, including help with child care needs. This help will take the form of increased vouchers, tax exemption on some baby supplies and healthcare changes. It’s not clear if the money will directly help child care centers raise wages for workers or if state money can drive down the cost of day care.

Right now, Hatfield says he believes the most promising sign for parents is that businesses are beginning to address the need for childcare. He cited companies like Toyota and hospitals like St. Vincent and Deaconess that have dedicated child care centers.

“Frankly, where republicans have failed in coming up with solutions, employers have stepped up.”

When the near-ban on abortions in Indiana takes effect on September 15th, officials say the child care shortage could become worse. Southern Indiana state representative Wendy McNamara authored the legislation that will ban 95% of abortions in Indiana. She declined to comment on the child care shortage.

While local state republican legislators stayed silent on the issue, one of the most nationally prominent republicans from Indiana did recently comment on issues facing women and childcare.

Former vice president Mike Pence spoke at the Southwest Indiana Right to Life Banquet – the largest in the nation. In commenting on supporting American families and children, he offered that one solution would be to return to an economy where it’s possible for one parent to work and the other to stay at home with children:

“In American, you should be able to raise a family on one income.”

For now, organizations like WorkForce and Building Blocks, will wait anxiously for the funding while still fulfilling their mission to help parents juggle work and child care needs.