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Ensuring safe and accessible childcare in Iowa

Announcement: Opportunity to share your experiences and concerns with Beth: Friday, January 17 at noon, you can attend a Listening Post at the Ames Public Library.

Newsletter:

During the interim, a constituent came to visit me with a photo of his infant grandson on the front page of the Des Moines Register. His grandson died due to unsafe sleeping practices at his day care. This grieving grandpa wanted to share his story to assure that no other family suffer this loss. Iowa is facing a child care crisis and I am committed to improving quality, safety, access and cost for Iowa families.

Iowans struggle to find child care. I have heard stories that unregistered daycares, which are legally limited to five children, have been discovered to have as many as 22 children in one home.  Parents are forced to put their children into these overcrowded environments, when they can’t find anything else.

The average cost of child care in Iowa ranges from $859 to $1,315 per month for infant and toddler care. Compared to the Iowa family median income, families spend anywhere between 19.5% to 24.2% of their income on child care. That is significantly more than they pay for housing.

Iowa ranks as one of the top states where both parents are working and have children under six years old. We have a tremendous need for affordable and quality child care.

Families can qualify for child care assistance (CCA) by working or going to school. These families must make less than 145% of federal poverty level. For a family that is near the income limit, even a slight raise would disqualify them for the benefit and be subject to the full child care costs.

As a result, many Iowa families are being forced to choose between accepting a higher paying job or losing all assistance with child care. This cliff effect is just one major problem facing Iowans which the governor committed to addressing in her state of the state address.

However, the governor did NOT address unregulated daycare facilities. With the shortage of licensed facilities many parents have had to turn to other places to take their kids. These unregulated daycares are often overcrowded, have too few adults supervising, and lack transparency. This has led to children being hurt, and in the case of my constituent’s grandson, dying.

For sufficient and safe child care, we need to increase the CCA rates, and to better regulate the industry. This means providing DHS with more workers to inspect these facilities. DHS has lost over 1,000 workers in less than a decade putting children

I have began working on several new bills that would create a  safe, enriching  and affordable child care for working families. The income-eligible families would benefit by being able to enter the workforce. These bills would create jobs in the early childhood sector and guarantee a living wage for those professionals.

I value interacting with my constituents. I will work on policy to protect Iowa’s children.  Always, thank you for sharing your stories.

Quote of the week: “If we are going to accomplish any lasting good in our lives, we must begin by bringing lasting good to the lives of our children in need.” –Mark Cady, Chief Justice of the Iowa Supreme Court

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