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Report evaluates status of Utah’s child care programs

By Sun Advocate

The Utah Office of Child Care released the agency’s first annual report on March 13.
The evaluation explores how well the state is meeting child care needs.
Highlights from the Utah report indicate that:
•By the year 2003, 59 percent of all children younger than age 13 in the state will have both or an only parent employed.
In addition, more than half of children younger than 6 years old will live in household where both parents are employed.
•The cost of obtaining full-day child care at locations throughout the state can range from $230 to $674 per month or $4,000 to $8,000 annually.
•Child care subsidies are available, but funds are limited.
The subsidies are available to families with household incomes which do not exceed 56 percent of the state median income.
For example, a family of four will not qualify if the household income exceeds $2,672 monthly or $32,064 annually.
•The average monthly child care subsidy payment is $245.
Household income determines how much parents are able to pay for child care, points out the agency’s report.
Families with young children generally have lower incomes. Parents’ capacity to pay for care affects the prevailing market rates charged by providers.
Providers who do not charge the full cost of care cannot afford to pay staff adequate wages and benefits such as health insurance, continues the report.
The situation results in high staff turnover in the industry.
The average annual wage earned by a child care provider in Utah totals $17,810.
According to the state office, the report comes at a crucial time for Utah and the nation. The Personal Responsibility and Work Reconciliation Act of 1996 authorizes the child care development fund.
Commonly referred to as the nation’s “welfare reform law,” the bill established the fund to assist low-income families, households receiving public assistance and people transitioning from pubic assistance to work with obtaining the child care necessary to find and keep employment.
For the current fiscal year, Utah will receive $48 million from the fund. Administered by the Utah Department of Workforce Services’ child care office, the revenues are allocated in two specific areas:
•Assisted child care receives the largest portion of the funding. Subsidized child care services are available to eligible families through certificates or contracts with providers.
Parents may select any legally operating child care provider. Services funded by CCDF must meet basic health and safety requirements set by the state.
•A minimum of 4 percent of the CCDF monies must be used to improve the quality of child care and offer additional services to parents.
Utah spends approximately 8 percent of the state’s allocation on quality initiatives like implementing resource-referral services, developing child care provider training, supporting related out-of-school time activities and improving or expanding the availability of infant/toddler programs.

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