By Rev. Michelle Foster
When my boys were little my top priority was finding quality childcare that not only accommodated my working schedule but also provided for my children the nurture and educational stimulation that they needed to develop healthily and wholly. Before my husband and I moved to Jackson we started our research. We called and inquired about prices and hours, asked for further information to be mailed to us and even went so far as to ask people what their thoughts were on the various places we were considering.
I was shocked to find out that the daycare center we felt most comfortable and confident about cost more than annual tuition at a local private school. Marc and I reviewed our budget. We weighed our options and we chose the daycare despite its cost. We chose it because we knew it was a licensed facility with trained teachers in every classroom. We knew the teachers were trained in first aid and CPR. We felt comfortable that the material and experiences they were offering to our children would be appropriate and encourage their further development. We appreciated the diversity of children that would be going to “school” with our children and the wealth of resources that were available to the teachers as they encouraged learning in such a variety of children with varying needs.
Unfortunately, this is not the story of every child needing childcare in Mississippi. The financial burden of paying for quality childcare is out of the range of some family budgets. The hoops and hurdles that facilities are required to jump through to become a licensed facility are often prohibitive both physically and financially. Single parent families are often lost in the cracks, leaving them little option for quality childcare because of the many stipulations and requirements set forth by the Mississippi Department of Human Services for those eligible for the child care certificate program. The truth is affordable quality childcare is support for working families. We know that 82 percent of working parents will still be employed two years later if the parents have affordable quality childcare for their children.
Our state needs your help in caring for all of God’s children. Will you be a part of the solution? Here are some possibilities:
• Learn more about the problem of quality childcare in Mississippi and the Mississippi Low Income Child Care Initiative at www.mschildcare.org
• Contact the governor’s office and the Mississippi Department of Human Services to tell them to use all available TANF funds for child care to maximize the number of children who can be served in the child care certificate program.
• Contact the governor’s office and the Mississippi Department of Human Services and our state legislators to tell them to create a grant program to provide money to child care centers to help them afford to participate in the new quality rating system, the Mississippi Child Care Quality Step System.
• Contact the governor’s office and the Mississippi Department of Human Services to tell them to adopt the following reforms in the child care certificate program: Eliminate the six-month re-determination requirement, give full time students higher priority for child care service, eliminate the child support requirement, reinstate slot-based contracts for child care providers and increase reimbursement rates for participating centers.
Foster works in the areas of children and family ministries for the Mississippi Conference.