In addition to the cost of day care, which ranges from $800 to $1,000 per month for infants (up to 18 months old) to $680 to $700 a month for older children, there are several other issues around day care that make it difficult for parents and providers alike.
There are day care subsidies available for parents that use a sliding scale based on income to help parents pay for care. Those subsidies are also calculated using the state’s one- to five-star rating for day care providers. The more stars, the greater the subsidy.
Day care providers’ star ratings are based on its certifications including the credentials of its staff. In the last three years the state’s criteria for day care providers have changed and they now need an associate degree or 40 hours of certain types of training. Providers who hire people without the appropriate qualifications lose a star.
Day care workers are typically paid $13.50 to $17 an hour and many don’t receive health care benefits, explained Rebecca Baruzzi, program manager for the Mad River Valley Community Fund. Let’s Grow Vermont does offer scholarships to help day care providers attain the appropriate certifications, she added.
Beyond the cost of day care and the wages of day care providers, there are two other complicated issues – availability and scheduling.
“The greatest need for our community is for infant care. We know anecdotally from those who provide infant care that they have waiting lists and get calls every week from parents seeking a spot, “Baruzzi said.
She said that she’d recently talked to a local parent whose child had just gotten an infant day care slot at a facility in Bolton.
Locally there are four state-rated facilities that take infants: Sugarbush Day Care, The Waitsfield Children’s Center, the Learning Garden and Danielle Livingston’s private day care.
“I hope there’s a lot of people providing underground day care, because there has to be,” she said.
Beyond infant care, however, is a complex algorithm of in-school and out-of-school preschool and after-school care with some facilities and schools offering two to four days a week of care at differing hours. This requires parents navigating the various offerings and utilizing public school transportation and other means of getting from one place to another.
“And to make it even more difficult, most day care facilities are not open during school breaks and for the first and last week of every summer. That means a single parent needs a job that has five weeks of vacation,” Baruzzi said.
She said that the MECA (Moretown Education Center for All) program in Moretown is a model that may work in other towns in the school district and in fact that has been thrown out as a possibility by the school district as well. MECA offers preschool and after-school care.
“Can we have a districtwide MECA and open up opportunities for summer? We don’t want to take action that is threatening to current child care providers. We need to be bringing private businesses in to be part of the solution,” she said.
Asked if there were any community in Vermont that had effectively addressed the child care issue, Baruzzi said no and said that Morgan Moulton, MECA director, gets multiple calls a week about how to create such a program.