Nearly 1 in 4 households in Allen County earn an annual income above the Federal Poverty Level, but below the basic cost of living. These households do not earn enough to make ends meet. Because they are employed, they often earn too much to qualify for government and private assistance programs. This population group is known as ALICE: Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed. United Way of Allen County fights daily for these individuals by breaking down barriers they face and by creating lasting change for them.
In the 2018 ALICE Report, child care expenses account for 19 percent of the Indiana family budget. For many ALICE families, 19 percent of their income will not even cover home-based child care – which is the least expensive organized care option. The child care budget, estimated at $832 monthly, represents the cost of registered home-based child care for an infant and a 4-year-old. Home-based child care sites may not be registered thru state laws, so the quality of care is not fully regulated and may vary between locations. Licensed and accredited child care centers, which are fully regulated to meet standards of quality care, are significantly more expensive.
United Way of Allen County offers funding to 31 local organizations, which several recognize child care as a barrier ALICE that families face.
Lutheran Social Services of Indiana is a funded partner agency. It identifies child care as a struggle for ALICE families. Being a part of the ALICE demographic often means child care expenses aren’t the only struggle. Finding employment can be a challenge due to lack of reliable transportation or access to child care, whether it is high-quality or not. This often results in 1 of the 2 parents quitting their job in order to stay home because their wage could not cover the child care expense. The family expenses are less with only one parent working. Lutheran Social Services of Indiana offers a Workforce Development Program to try and alleviate this barrier for ALICE families. LSSI Works is an initiative that is committed to providing students personal and professional skills to help them find a career, not just a job. Angela Moellering, President & CEO of LSSI, explains that in order to take the first steps in solving the child care barrier – we must collaborate; from the teachers in the community, to the nonprofits, funders, and Allen County businesses.
Early Childhood Alliance, a funded partner agency, describes how we must address the Three A’s: Availability, Accessibility, and Affordability when talking about issues and challenges. A perfect example is the recommendation that children should be in high quality programs that are Paths to QUALITY designated to prepare children to enter school. Allen County families within the median income of $57,252 are challenged to afford the annual cost of high-quality child care of $7,621 for full time care. Madeline Baker, CEO of Early Childhood Alliance, states “It would be great if we were able to define basic education as birth to high school, creating a roadmap for every one of Allen County’s youngest citizens to become a viable workforce that is envied by other communities!” ECA shares a story with us about the Harris kids that started the program in 2015. Candace Harris, a single mother to 6 children, explains how confident she is in the abilities of all staff and volunteers at ECA. “This is not a place to just park your kids, the children spend their time doing structured activities, taking field trips, learning, playing, and exploring their interests” Harris describes.
ALICE individuals and families are facing this child care barrier every single day. Although there are many resources available, it is still not enough. We must continue to collaborate and fight for improved availability, accessibility, and affordability.
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