As a part of their Rethinking Child Care project, Cleveland.com reporters discovered a startling reality for Ohio families: Ohio is at the bottom of the nation for public childcare support. While the ranking may be embarrassing for state officials, the ramifications of a lack of access to quality child care is all too real for many Ohioans.
Ohio Laws Burden Families
Cleveland.com found that Ohio has the lowest poverty threshold when it comes to families eligible for public subsidies. And, along with a handful of other states, Ohio has the lowest formula for calculating the subsidies it pays childcare centers — at 25% of the market rate.
What does this mean for families? According to Policy Matters Ohio, There are nearly 400,000 working mothers in Ohio with children under age six and most use some form of child care when parents are working or for child enrichment purposes. Child care is expensive for Ohio and often low quality which means that children aren’t getting the enrichment they need at a time in their life when high-quality care is essential to future success.
They also point out that the Ohio system is complicated to navigate, with parents not always knowing how to find or determine what constitutes quality care. Not only is the system difficult to navigate, Ohio makes it hard to qualify for assistance. In fact, Policy Matters Ohio reports that only two states make it harder to qualify for state assistance.
Quality Care is Crucial
Despite all of the obstacles to obtaining quality care, research shows that quality childcare is crucial for families and communities. The American Academy of Pediatrics writes, “High-quality early education and child care for young children improves physical and cognitive outcomes for the children and can result in enhanced school readiness. Preschool education can be viewed as an investment (especially for at-risk children), and studies show a positive return on that investment.”
While the state of Ohio ranks at the bottom, advocates are hopeful that new federal regulations can help to improve the conditions for Ohio families and children. The Ohio Capital Journal reports that a proposed federal rule could lower child care costs and benefit providers as well.
Can the Federal Government Help?
Per the OCJ, The new rule would place a maximum limit on the amount of “co-pay” low-income families pay for publicly-funded child care. If approved, co-payment would be capped at 7% of household income.
In Ohio, a child can be enrolled in PFCC if the family’s gross monthly household income is 145% or less of the federal poverty level, according to Will Petrik, project manager for the think tank Policy Matters.
Households can remain enrolled in the federal program so long as their income stays below 300% of the federal poverty level, or $5,758 a month for a family of three.
The cap on co-pays would alleviate the stress of paying for something that is universally considered an important starting point for the education of a child.
“These changes will lead to a more stable financial environment for child care providers, which in turn encourage more providers to participate in PFCC, leading to an increase in child care options, improved quality of care and expanded parental choice,” according to Will Petrik, project manager for the think tank Policy Matters.