Shutdown headaches: child care

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Gretchen Raymer, the adult in this photo, wrote to MPR two weeks ago, worried about the 27 children in the Creative Kids Academy child care center she runs whose families rely on state subsidies to attend. Twenty-six thousand families got letters from the state warning their child care subsidies would disappear in the event of a government shutdown.

I produced a story looking at what would happen to these families and the people who care for their children.

Today, I called Raymer to see how it’s going on the second work day of the shutdown. Raymer was off. I remembered she talked about burning vacation time so other employees could get more hours. The toddler teacher answered the phone and confirmed that a third of the children aren’t attending today. Raymer had to lay off four staffers.

The center backs up against a mobile home park in the Twin Cities suburb of Lexington, where some of the children live. “Sometimes this is most structured environment they have,” said Raymer. Parents told Raymer they would be unable to afford the full cost of care for their children even for a week, so they were improvising arrangements with friends, grandparents and older siblings for the duration of the shutdown. Many of these parents are part of Minnesota’s welfare to work program, and can’t risk losing these jobs — their ladder out of poverty.

After the interview, as we were chatting in her office, Raymer talked about the struggles these families are up against, holding down their jobs as PCAs and hotel and restaurant workers. But Raymer’s concern went beyond that of a day care manager concerned about $4000 in weekly lost revenue.

She used to be one of these parents getting a subsidy. Eight years ago, she needed help as a single mother. By receiving the subsidy to care for her daughter, she was able to work her way up from child care aide to center director.

It’s the kind of detail that gets squeezed out of a 4 minute story but makes all the difference.

We’ll keep following the child care angle. Annie Baxter reported on a center that’s closed due to the shutdown. Tell us at The Cities what you’re seeing.

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