Child care leaders say many in area lack affordable options

Andrew Hyman
Updated: February 16, 2020 11:13 PM
Created: February 16, 2020 10:59 PM

ROCHESTER N.Y. (WHEC) — Local child care leaders say they're feeling the strain, saying that Monroe County and the City of Rochester face a lack of affordable care options for young kids.

At the Rochester Childfirst Network, Executive Director Ann Marie Stephan says care agencies are facing a delicate balance between providing high-quality childcare at an affordable price while also keeping staff around.

"We get fewer applications for teaching positions, part of that is because we don't pay as much as [school districts] for example," says Stephan.

While school districts do not generally provide toddler and infant care, Stephan says they do provide some preschool classes, and utilize some centers like the Childfirst Network.

With fewer people there to help, though, Stephan says it leaves families with fewer options for care, especially when dealing with toddlers and infants. Stephan says the age group requires more certified help as infants and toddlers begin the early learning process. Stephan says less pay and a perceived lack of interest in working with younger kids can lead to this void.

Last month, advocates at Rochester’s Children’s Agenda released its most recent report, which called the county's current childcare situation a “crisis."

The report found a 22% decline in the number of licensed childcare providers in Rochester and an 18% decline in the suburbs over the last five years.

Though Stephan says it’s not just a lack of spots which can keep a family away from childcare. Sometimes, it’s the cost.

State data shown in the report reveals the weekly cost of care in toddlers and infants is significantly higher than other ages. This fact, coupled with costs above a “market rate,” lead to a presumption that centers serving toddlers and infants were losing money as a result.

Stephan says this trend can also impact children with special needs, as a child would require more help as well. 

"That’s additional costs that an agency may not be able to provide or have the ability to do, and then it also increases the cost potentially to families," she says.

But Monroe County leaders are making some strides. Last Thursday, Monroe County Executive Adam Bello announced three individual boosts to the county's childcare subsidy program. 

The report found subsidizing childcare could hurt lower-income families, who may struggle to keep steady employment and housing.
In his Thursday press conference, Bello reiterated his campaign is committed to affordable childcare.

"These three enhancements mark an important milestone in our efforts to help protect young people, to improve the lives of their parents and to help ensure no parent ever has to forgo greater opportunity because of a lack of child care," Bello said.

Stephan says the enhancements will help but stressed that childcare providers, parents, and lawmakers have to work together to continue to find ways to make care affordable and available for all families.

One possibility would involve New York State: at the start of February, a group of local childcare leaders took a bus to Albany to push Governor Andrew Cuomo to make investments in state childcare a priority.

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