New partnership working to expand affordable child care options

CAPTION:  Annie Ferrara, an in-home child care provider, with two of her clients, Migel and Brooklyn.  Ferrara is signed up to take part in a new United Way-funded workshop with 4C for Children that will help her grow her business while expanding opportunties for affordable child care in Logan County.
 
Annie Ferrara has been operating an in-home day care in Bellefontaine.  The single mom of three teenagers finds it the best way to raise and support her family.
 
"When they were younger and I did work out of the home, I put them in a daycare center and I hated it," she said.  "When I picked them up, I would go home and cry.  I just wanted to be home with my kids.  This opportunity for me, to stay home with them and to get paid to be doing what I want to be doing, just seemed like the best fit."
 
Now, Ferrara is ready to give her Bellefontaine-based business a serious boost with the help of a United Way-funded pilot program designed to expand child care options for working families in Logan County.  
 
4C for Children, a new United Way Funded Agency that specializes in training and coaching for early childhood professionals, will begin training Ferrara and up to seven other new and experienced in-home child care providers next month.  That goal is for them to become licensed.  
 
But the impact only begins with the quality of service those providers would be able to offer.  The six-session training will also make them eligible to accept state funding for their services, meaning income-eligible families who struggle to afford child care will have new options to have their child care paid for.  
 
U.S. Census data showed that last year, there were 300 children under age five in Logan County whose families would qualify for state aid to pay for child care.  But an astonishing 80 percent of those families were not utilizing the available state funding, primarily because there are not enough providers in Logan County to accommodate the need.  
 
“The ripple effect of this pilot program can be enormous,” says Dave Bezusko, United Way of Logan County Executive Director.  “Quality, affordable child care is one of a family’s biggest monthly expenses.  How many times do you hear a parent say it seems like they go to work just to pay for child care?  
 
“With this program, a low-income family can end that vicious cycle, and keep their paycheck for other expenses while they lift themselves out of poverty.  They can be assured that they are sending their child to a safe, top-quality provider.  Meanwhile, the provider earns top-dollar despite a family’s ability to pay.”  
 
For example, Ferrara typically charges $100-$125 per week per child.  She knows others who charge less.  Once she is licensed, she’ll be able to receive up to $143 per week per child.  
 
United Way of Logan County is investing $35,000 in the program this year so 4C can train these providers.  With that, up to 54 child care slots eligible for state funding can open up.  This could leverage an additional $300,000 in state child care funding to come to Logan County that is currently going unclaimed.  Leaders from the Logan County Chamber of Commerce, Commissioners’ Office, Department of Job & Family Services, Family & Children First Council, and the Logan County Libraries joined United Way and 4C for Children last month in collaboration to promote the program  
 
“Logan County is owning the issue of a lack of childcare options for families in an amazing way,” said Lisa Babb, 4C for Children Strategic Director.  “Our new partners include all elementary schools, the toy store, coffee shops, chamber, radio and newspaper, churches, libraries, career center, a Christian school, and WIC.  These organizations have embraced our work and recruitment efforts and are sharing with their connections what an amazing time it would be to open childcare program in their home!”  
 
“The need is dire here in Logan County, especially for third shift,” said Ferrara.  “There's nobody who wants to do that.  I can't tell you the number of times I've been contacted on Facebook for someone looking for third shift and I've had to turn them down just because I don't have what I need here.  I would need more sleeping space.  I need babyproofing so I can get more infants in the house.  I just haven't had the money to be able to do that on my own.”
 
Through an additional limited time grant from the state, 4C’s program can eliminate those barriers too, covering costs for new providers licensed in the next several months to obtain furniture, educational materials, and office supplies for their business.
 
Ferrara has high hopes that the training will help her expand her business.
 
“It's going to give me a great sense of pride in my business, number one,” she said.  “To be able to say I have certification.  I have training.  I know what to do in case something happens.  And it gives my families that much more security, for them to have faith in me and my business, not that they don't already, but it is an incentive.  I mean, if it came down to it, this might be a reason why someone would hire me instead of somebody else.  If you are looking at this person versus that person, and one person’s certified, insured, and bonded and the other is not, I'm going over here.  And that person can have their child care paid for by the state in an intimate home setting.”
 
Anyone interested in starting a child care program, whether as a day care center or an in-home provider are encouraged to contact 4C for Children at (937) 723-2713.  4C for Children is a non-profit organization serving 15 counties in southwest Ohio to help child care programs and professionals reach new levels of quality by providing workshops that promote professionalism and developmentally appropriate care.  For more information, visit www.4cforchildren.org.