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Paying for child care is expensive in the Tri-Cities. This might ease that financial pain

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Washington passed a strong Paid Family and Medical Leave policy with bipartisan support. Join MomsRising to learn more about Washington's new paid family and medical leave program coming in 2020.
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Washington passed a strong Paid Family and Medical Leave policy with bipartisan support. Join MomsRising to learn more about Washington's new paid family and medical leave program coming in 2020.

Lorri Ann Hope got into the business of child care through necessity.

“I was working full time and then we started our family and I didn’t have care,” she said. “I didn’t have family here. ... I wasn’t connected in the community to know where quality care could be found, and so I stayed home with my daughter.”

Then her former co-workers began to turn to her to help them, and that started 25 years of work providing child care at Hope for the Future Child Care & Preschool in Richland.

Like many licensed day cares, there was a constant struggle for Hope to be able to pay the bills and provide pay for her employees. While it wasn’t the only reason she finally shut her doors, it was one of them.

She is not alone. The number of child care providers across the state dropped in half since 2006. While that provider community fell, costs rose, Hope said.

The number of child care facilities is declining in Benton and Franklin counties as well, according to Child Care Aware of Washington. Between 2013 and 2017, the number fell from 174 providers to 150 in Franklin County and from 156 to 141 in Benton County.

Now an infant, toddler and preschool coach with Child Care Aware in Pasco, she’s hoping the state will step in and start making early childhood learning a priority. The local organization joined with MomsRising.org, a national advocacy group for mothers, to collect local stories of parents and child care providers and bring them to the attention of legislators in Olympia.

Part of that fact-finding mission happened Saturday when they held an event at the Hopkins Street branch of the Mid-Columbia Library in Pasco.

Declining numbers of child care providers

MomsRising said the cost of providing care is draining at least $11,000 a year from families in Washington. In addition, stagnant subsidies for people with low incomes is making it harder for daycare providers to afford to take them in.

“We’re all paying the cost,” Hope said. “Children, parents and early childhood professionals are paying the highest cost.”

Lauren Hipp and Casey Osborn-Hinman from MomsRising came to Pasco to record stories from parents struggling to find child care and to talk about changes in family leave laws.

For now, they are pinning hope to a state bill currently in the Senate. House Bill 1344 would assess child care in each region of the state along with looking at ways to improve pay for child care providers.

That effort comes as educators increasingly focus on making sure children are ready to go to school. Research shows children are at their most receptive to learning between birth and 3 years old.

Kindergarten teachers are looking for children who can work well with others, get along with their peers and have the skills to go to the restroom by themselves, Hope said. To do that, child care providers often get their bachelor’s degree in early childhood education before starting a job where they are likely to make minimum wage.

Hipp, Osborn-Hinman and Hope want the state to treat child care centers with the same level of importance they give K-12 education.

That’s what brought Beatriz Lemus to the event.

Lemus, who has a 10-month-old child and a 3-year-old, wants to make sure the children have a quality education. She said she’s been told child care can cost between $25 and $30 a day per child.

On average, Tri-City families are spending 18 percent of their income on child care for infants, and that’s if they can find it at all, Hipp and Osborn-Hinman said.

“It’s not just families who are impacted, it really is the whole community,” Osborn-Hinman said.

People can go to MomsRising.org for more information about the organization.

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