The need for child care is ever-increasing in this economy, especially in the State of Colorado, as our population is always increasing. Nationally, 61 percent of children under the age of five experience weekly child care. The cycle of living paycheck to paycheck is a common burden among those in the Northern Colorado area and incomes cannot keep up with housing and child care costs. The average person in Fort Collins spends 30 percent of their income on housing. This usually leads to the need for a dual income for families, or the absolute necessity for a single parent to work full time. In Larimer County, 80 percent of women and 95 percent of men work. Without child care, this is impossible.
Effects on the Family
The phrase “affordable child care” leaves most middle and lower socioeconomic status workers in the United States wondering if there is such a thing. On average, Colorado is one of the most expensive states for child care. This lack of affordable care impacts one out of five low-income families, often deterring labor force participation among women. Colorado held the highest average cost in 2015 for center-based infant care, estimated to be about 50 percent of a single parent’s income, or 18 percent income for a family in Larimer County. Just a few years ago, 16 percent of Colorado’s children lived in poverty, and there are statistics that point to the overall cost of child care and housing as a factor.
Effects on the Community
This cost breakdown for Larimer County poses threats to the quality of life for families and children in the middle to lower socioeconomic classes. However, it also poses threats to the job market. Each business depends on employees who depend on child care. If families cannot afford child care, they lose income and businesses lose employees. Additionally, it is important to consider the quality of child care available. If the quality is poor, there are increased risks for negative developmental outcomes including poor behavioral, academic, and executive functioning outcomes. Exposure to negative environments is a risk that many low-income parents take when choosing child care that is affordable in Larimer County and in the United States as a whole.
Role of The Matthews House
We at The Matthews House have staff members who work one-on-one with families who are impacted by issues like affordable child care. We build relationships with these families and help connect them with information and resources they need to support their children. These staff are primarily our Family to Family Transition Facilitators and Early Childhood Navigators. We are also always learning new information from the state and county levels to implement in our work, as this issue is pursued. Though we do not have a full-time child care programs, we do provide free relief to families in a couple ways. Our after-school program called Homework Helpers is a safe space for 8-16 year olds to grow friendships and get help with their academics. Also, we offer free child care during our adult education classes and groups, to ease the burden of finding and affording child care. If you’re interested in joining us as we support these families, check out the Volunteer tab of our website!