Child Care, it can impact the jobs we take and the money we make. This week, 7 Eyewitness News is taking a hard look at the state of child care in WNY, who's getting it right and the price of getting it wrong.
Elizabeth Woods, her husband Nate and their 10-month-old son Alexander love to spend time together., but lately family outings have been complicated by the stress of finding quality child care. "It's really really hard", Elizabeth tells 7EWN.
Last May, Elizabeth accepted a new job, with a pay increase, but with less say over her schedule. A required switch to the evening shift quickly followed leaving the family with a huge hole in care for Alexander and scrambling for options. "I had eight days to find a new daycare" said Elizabeth. "Between my husband and I we called 40 daycares. No one had immediate availability.
Adding to the stress the welcomed increased in pay meant the family no longer qualified for child care subsidies. "With my new job I literally make ten bucks over", said Elizabeth.
Stories like Elizabeth's are all too familiar for Sheri Scavone. "If we don't figure out a way to support in particular working women and working families our renaissance is going to fall short."
Scavone is a champion for child care as the executive director of the WNY Women's Foundation. "If parents don't have a safe affordable accessible place fof their children to be while they are at work. They are not going to be able to work.'
Scavone says quality child care supports economic growth, family stability and positive child outcomes in our community. But a complicated system and rising costs are often a roadblock for many families.
"The cost is just outrageous. It's double a SUNY education and people can't afford it."
And that's just for one year and one child. State figures show that the average cost of center-based child care in Erie County is $12,000 a year and that Erie County receives less state funding for subsidies than other comparable counties.
"There is a social economic divide. The people who are upper middle class and above may struggle to pay $12,000 a year per child. But they live in communities where there is access to quality child care and they pay for it. Those who do not have the economic means are either choosing less quality programs or they make a choice to not go to work or shift some things around and leave their child with family and friends which not may be the best choice.
Scavone says from access to cost the system is broken.
"It's kind ofa terrible storm. It's difficult for providers, it's difficult for workers in the child care business. It's difficult for parents to find, access and afford child care." "We have to get our hands around this child care issue. Unfortunately a lot of it is regulatory and comes from the state and even federal government."
They are changes that can't come soon enough for families like the Woods'.
"If we don't get it right. We are going to fail", Scavone concluded.
7 Eyewitness News will have continued coverage on the child care issue during newscasts on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Also join us for a Hiring 716 Child Care Special on Wednesday night at 7:30.