Child Care Council of Dutchess and Putnam
"Child care is an economic issue. People often think of it as babysitting, but we’re educating people that it’s a profession that is necessary for economic development. People need to go to work, to go to school, to keep jobs, and they can’t do that without quality child care." – Jeanne Wagner, Executive Director, Child Care Council of Dutchess and Putnam
According to Child Care Aware of America, the annual cost of child care rivals that of other major expenses like housing, transportation, and tuition at a four-year public university. In Dutchess County the average annual cost for an infant at a day care center is $13,624, and the cost for a pre-school-age child is $11,440.
Of the parents surveyed by the Child Care Council of Dutchess and Putnam in 2015, over 20% reported cost as the number one problem in finding adequate child care. “There are so may people who call us looking for childcare, and they need help,” says Executive Director Jeanne Wagner.
Since 2010, Dyson Foundation funding has allowed the Council to provide financial assistance to economically disadvantaged Dutchess County families who earn slightly too much to qualify for a county subsidy, but not enough to afford the full cost of care. The Dyson Foundation believes child care is not only an educational issue but an economic development issue as well. This funding falls within the Enhancing Education and Health & Safety Net themes.
“You’re trying to give the children a good basis for later life. It’s proven that when children have access to high quality care in their early development, they’re more prepared for kindergarten and success in school later. They earn more money. There is less of a drop out rate. There are fewer incarcerations,” adds Wagner. “Economists have said that for every dollar you spend on early education, you get a $7 return.”
The Council uses Dyson Foundation funding to provide scholarships to parents who don’t qualify for county child care subsidies because their annual income is slightly too high, or who might be ineligible for other reasons.
“In order to receive help from the Department of Community and Family Services you have to be at 200 percent of the Federal poverty level of family income ($40,840 for a family of three). That is why this scholarship project is so important, because we accept families that earn up to 250 percent, so that family of three can earn up to $51,000 and still get help with child care so they can keep their jobs,” says Wagner.
In addition to working closely on this issue with officials at the county level, the Child Care Council is part of a network that advocates at the state level for increased affordability, access, and quality in the child care system.