When jobs pay more than child care costs, the decision to go back to work after the birth of a child makes sense and the math works. However, when parents are working low-paying jobs, the barriers to success for both the family and the child are overwhelming. The average annual cost of child care in a center in Hennepin County is $18,356 (Source: Childaware.org). In the Interfaith Outreach service area, we estimate 500 of our littlest learners and their families need help paying for child care.
Our local response to this need is Caring for Kids (CfK), the foundational program of the Great Expectations Initiative (GE). The program provides scholarships for 0-5 year olds and holistic wraparound supports through Interfaith Outreach, the Wayzata and Orono School Districts, and additional partner organizations. With community support all children and families living in poverty can get the help they need to thrive.
Kathryn Tout, Interfaith Outreach Board Member and Director of Early Childhood Research at Child Trends, explains, “We often hear research findings about high quality early education and the return on investment that we get, but we hear less about the fact that we need to start earlier than preschool. There is power in engaging with families as early as possible and helping children and their families get on a positive trajectory. Research shows that every year earlier you connect them to resources, there are benefits.”
Rachel Boettcher, Caring for Kids Program Manager, adds, “This research was confirmed by a client survey completed in partnership with Wilder Research last year. We asked 150 families with children age 0-3 what’s working and what’s hard. Many families want and need quality child care, but cannot afford it. Families are also looking for additional resources, information about child development, and connections with other parents. We are working with the school districts to connect families to existing resources while simultaneously developing new programming that will support these parents of young children.”
For more than a decade, kids and families have counted on this resource. Last year 183 children and their 157 families were part of CfK. However, 200 kids remain on the waiting list to access program resources.