Affordable child care hard to find in Olmsted County

Olmsted County has plenty of child care, it's just that many people can't afford it.

On average, 200 families are on waiting lists to receive subsidized child care, according to Tutti Sherlock, executive director of Child Care Resource and Referral, which conducted its annual meeting Wednesday. Child Care Resource and Referral is a nonprofit agency that helps match families with child care providers.

``It's the number one problem: Who pays for child care?'' Sherlock said.

The families on the waiting list are the ``working poor,'' people whose jobs don't pay enough to support their families, she said. They are eligible for assistance, there simply isn't enough to go around.

``These are people who are going to quit their jobs and go back on welfare if they can't get help,'' Sherlock said.


Calls for welfare reform have also cast the spotlight on the issue of affordability, she said.

Reform will be difficult without answering the question, ``How are you going to manage and cover the cost of child care?'' Sherlock said. ``You can't do it without child care subsidies.''

But the increasing cost of child care isn't the only concern for parents. They are also concerned with quality.

Dean Stenehjem, executive director of the Rochester Area Family Y, said parents also look for safety, a variety of activities and educational opportunities.

Nearly 100 children are involved in some form of child care at the Y.

Elaine Cokinos, a team leader with Rochester Public School's School Age Child Care, said parents are also concerned about ``changing times.''

``They're worried about the negative things on television and worry about social aspects,'' said Cokinos, who has been with the program for nine years.

Parents are also concerned about children who are too old for conventional child care but still require supervision. School Age Child Care is considering a program for middle school, Cokinos said.@et

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