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BY:  Ohio Capital Journal

Ohio parents are working hard, sometimes at multiple jobs, but most still can’t afford child care, that is if there are child care options at all where they live.

A new report from child care advocacy group Groundwork Ohio showed the scarcity of child care and the struggles parents had even when they could obtain child care, because the cost of that care can be prohibitive.

The Family Voices Project Report surveyed 755 parents and caregivers between April and May of this year, all of whom had at least one child under the age of six. The 755 parents and caregivers represented 932 Ohio children.

Demographics in the study included 75% women, with a majority of families surveyed (66%) identifying as white. In terms of family structure, 75% of those taking the study were two-parent households, and the biggest poverty level represented (43%) lived at less than 200% of the federal poverty line.

Surveying the parents, the study focused on policy pillars of early learning and child care; health care access and quality; early childhood trauma prevention; and economic stability.

The study found that child care subsidies “are a critical support for working families, but access is limited.”

One in three Ohioans surveyed reported “difficulty finding child care,” and almost 60% said their current child care situation wasn’t affordable.

“Over half of the respondents whose children were not enrolled in child care cited the expense of child care as the reason,” according to the study.

While almost the same amount said they were reliant on the state’s Publicly Funded Child Care assistance, 40% of those struggled to find a facility that accepted it.

The study further showed problems with the PFCC program, even for those who have already applied and been deemed eligible. A quarter of the survey participants who receive a child care subsidy “reported that their copayment was not affordable.”

That’s when you even get the subsidies: 24% of survey-takers who applied for the program said it took more than three months to start receiving PFCC funding after applying.

Many of those surveyed have had to change work schedules or cut back hours because of struggles to arrange child care.

And while nearly all parents reported having a support system like partners, friends or parents, one in three parents had “high levels of stress” and 65% said they “could benefit from additional resources and support for parenting.”

Public assistance programs were part of the parenting process for those in the study, with 27% enrolled in Medicaid, 16% a part of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and 13% in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC).

The biggest group of study participants (26%) were from central Ohio, followed by Northeast Ohio (20%), Appalachia (18%), Southwest Ohio (15%) and Northwest Ohio (8%).

While the majority of participants in the study were two-parent households, those in single-parent households were represented, and reported working more than one job to make ends meet, 10% more than two-parent households.

Working multiple jobs and struggling to find (and keep) child care has its ripple effects on child health, as shown in the study.

Children in households with incomes between 200% and 400% of the federal poverty line were “least likely to have a regular source” of health care, according to the study, and children sometimes can’t make it to well-child visits even when they have regular care, due to a parent’s work schedule or the cost of care.

“Parents with higher incomes (above 400% FPL) had fewer access issues; however, 15% reported not being able to access timely care for a sick child and 18% reported challenges with timely access to a specialist,” the study found.

The legislature seems to have taken notice as advocates sounded the alarm on a “crisis” regarding child care costs, availability, and workforce for the field. Several bills, many sponsored by GOP lawmakers have been handed to committees during the current General Assembly. Though the bills won’t see further action until November since lawmakers are on summer break, Republican-led bills will have an easier chance in the GOP supermajority legislature.

Susan Tebben

Susan Tebben is an award-winning journalist with a decade of experience covering Ohio news, including courts and crime, Appalachian social issues, government, education, diversity and culture. She has worked for The Newark Advocate, The Glasgow (KY) Daily Times, The Athens Messenger, and WOUB Public Media. She has also had work featured on National Public Radio.

Ohio Capital Journal is part of States Newsroom, the nation’s largest state-focused nonprofit news organization.


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