By Terry Styner, Member of the Study Committee and the Washington County Unit
Building on the 1988 LWV study on child care in Oregon, the Washington County Chapter is considering how to support the needs of working parents with children from birth to high school graduation. We spoke with Beth Unverzagt, Executive Director of Oregon ASK (After School Kids).
She gave us her thoughts on access, affordability, and economic impact on society. Oregon ASK’s various studies conclude that those who benefit most from after-school programs are those with the least access. Communities with limited availability of programs often are those with limited economic opportunity.
Oregon does not have a systemic approach to funding and regulating child care programs. Different agencies are responsible for supporting different age groups. For example, programs supporting pre-school age children are overseen by the Early Learning Division of the Department of Education. Programs for school-age children are overseen by Department of Human Service’s Employment Related Day Care (EDRC) agency. The result is a fragmented approach to availability to support families.
When asked how LWVOR could help address the challenge of access and affordability, Ms. Unverzagt suggested that anything leading to a systemic approach for funding, credentialing, and regulation of child care programs would provide significant improvement in the lives of our state’s working families.
From a policy standpoint, there is tremendous opportunity to impact the lives of Oregon children and their families. While studies on the economic impact of childcare are scarce, one of ASK’s reports quoted “The Boys and Girls Clubs in Ventura County: Serving the Economic Interests of the Region while Providing a Positive Place for Kids.” by Jamshid Damooei, (2014). It looked at just one program in one county, concluding that, for every $1.00 spent on child care, $9.93 was earned by parents who could continue working. As our lawmakers work toward creating an inclusive, sustainable society, this suggests an area where further study might reveal similar impact potential for Oregon.
The study committee is currently meeting and doing literature reviews and interviews.