Tackling the high cost of child care

Child care costs are increasing, and some OSU faculty and staff need help covering the cost.

Child care costs are increasing, and some OSU faculty and staff need help covering the cost.

When Kelly Chapman’s children were young, she had a serious financial dilemma. Her ex-husband was on disability, limiting his ability to provide any financial support. Her income as an office specialist at Oregon State University was being stretched thin, and as a full-time employee, she also needed child care for her children. She wasn’t sure she could juggle her house payment, food, and child care costs.

“You know how hard it is as (an adult) to ask for money from your dad?” Chapman said.

But luckily for Chapman, whose children were enrolled at Beaver Beginnings on campus, the director told her about a child care subsidy through OSU that she could apply for. The OSU Child Care Center Program Fund dispersed its first subsidy in 1998  to assist OSU faculty and staff with a demonstrated need for assistance in paying for their child care costs.

The subsidy is paid for from the quarterly earnings of a small endowment established at the OSU Foundation. During the first few years of the subsidy, only a few people knew about, and applied for, the subsidy. But now, as the economy has shifted, the demand for the subsidy is increasing, and the number of families needing assistance is also increasing.

Amy Luhn, director of the Office of Childcare and Family Resources, helps select recipients from the pool of applicants, and is also in charge of leading fundraising efforts, along with the Child Care Friend-Raisers Committee, which is made up of current and retired faculty and staff.

“We need to grow the working account,” Luhn said, so that more money will be immediately available to distribute to parents in need.

This year, 15 families applied to receive subsidies. Of those applicants, six were selected, all of whom were paying more than 15 percent of their annual income on child care, some up to 22 percent.

Originally, subsidies were only available for child care centers affiliated with OSU. But Luhn was able to expand that to include licensed family child care providers as well. She pointed out that in-home child care fees are often less than centers, and when a staff member is having to pay up to 25 percent of their take-home pay for child care, every bit counts. Excluding those who use in-home care meant some of the most in-need parents were unable to apply for a subsidy.

While some faculty have applied for and received subsidies, a majority of the recipients are staff, who typically have a lower salary range.

“And as we’re looking at expanding the university, we’re going to need more staff to support the infrastructure,” Luhn said, and that means demand for subsidies is also likely to increase. Additionally, post docs, who aren’t eligible to receive student fee-based assistance for child care, are eligible for the subsidy.

The subsidy has typically provided between $1000 and $1200 for the school year to recipients, which spread out over four terms (including summer) can make a big difference. Child care “Is like a second house payment,” Chapman said. And having to pay a few hundred dollars less a month means that parents can use that savings for other costs. OSU Sea Grant administrative program specialist Eric Dickey said, “That’s another couple of bags of groceries at the end of the month.

Dickey is not only a former recipient of the subsidy, he’s also a member of the Child Care Friend-Raisers Committee. He and Luhn want to expand the membership of the committee, which has been shrinking in recent years. They’re hoping that faculty and staff who are dedicated to supporting working parents will come forward with their ideas and their enthusiasm to help move the committee forward as they come up with creative ideas to help raise more money for the subsidy.

When his children were younger, the subsidy helped Dickey to balance his finances so that he could get help for one of his children, who had a sensory disorder.  And it made balancing his work and home life a little easier.

“It allowed my wife and me to maintain our work and professional commitments knowing our children were being taken care of in a licensed, safe and dependable childcare center,” Dickey said.

Current faculty and staff can make donations to the fund directly or via payroll deduction. A monthly donation helps distribute contributions evenly throughout the year, lessening the immediate impact for the donor, while providing the fund with a steady and reliable income stream. Visit campaignforosu.org/facultygiving to obtain the form or make a gift.

To join the Child Care Friend-Raisers Committee, contact Amy Luhn at amy.luhn@oregonstate.edu

 

 

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