Meet Ra’Shaun — in 2012, Ra’Shaun graduated from the University of Louisville with a master’s degree in Justice Administration. As a participant in Family Scholar House’s residential program, she had completed her undergraduate degree, also from UofL, while raising her daughter. Throughout her journey, Ra’Shaun has maintained her focus on the educational attainment necessary for her to fulfill her career goals and model determination and persistence for her daughter.
After receiving her master’s degree, Ra’Shaun found employment with another local social service organization in a role that uses her education and experience. This has allowed her to serve our community while also receiving hands-on experience and moving toward self-sufficiency with a goal of becoming independent from all government assistance. The one subsidy she continues to utilize is our state’s financial assistance for childcare for low-income workers. You see, even with a master’s degree, employment in a social service organization rarely pays a living wage or provides enough income to afford both basic needs AND childcare for young children.
With the cost-cutting changes made to Kentucky’s Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP), Ra’Shaun no longer qualifies for help with the childcare costs for her daughter because she makes between 100% and 150% of the poverty line (for 2013, the federal poverty guideline for a family of two is $15,510). So, she is struggling to figure out what to do with her daughter during the day while she is at work in order to keep her job.
There are two things I know about R’Shaun with absolute certainty: 1) she loves her daughter, and 2) she has worked very hard to become a contributing member of our community. Ra’Shaun has much to offer, and now we, our community, may lose out on that because she may lose her job because, on her shoe-string budget, she may miss too much work while patching together childcare for her daughter.
So, what would you do? As you can see, it is complicated.
Ra’Shaun doesn’t want to quit her job providing meaningful service for needy children in our community. She doesn’t want her daughter to miss out on the early childhood education that Ra’Shaun knows is important to her development and preparation for kindergarten. And, she doesn’t want to leave her daughter with just anyone who can babysit for a few dollars a day. As a responsible mother, Ra’Shaun would never leave a young child alone; so on those days when she cannot find someone to care for her daughter, she will miss work. How many days she can miss before she is fired remains to be seen. Once she loses employment, the Commonwealth will lose the taxes she pays on her wages and then begin paying her unemployment benefits (a further hit to the Commonwealth’s budget), and our community will lose the benefit of her work with needy children.
It’s a complicated situation; and yet, it is so simple.
We need to put our money where our mouth is by investing in the things we say matter. We need our youngest citizens to be cared for in safe and supportive environments, encouraged in learning and developing their natural inquisitiveness and having opportunities that prepare them to lead. And, we need to encourage our citizens to strive for career-track employment and self-sufficiency.
Today, Ra’Shaun is worrying about finding someone to care for her daughter while she works, and she is preparing for what happens next. We should be worrying about the long-term impact of our short-term cost-savings when childcare assistance is cut. And, if we really care about our future – yours, mine, our community’s – we should be demanding that a complicated situation be made simple with a renewed commitment to investing in early childhood education for our children.