Rauner’s child care rules could be devastating: parents, providers

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Lenita Edgeworth takes time during her lunch break to visit and read to her 8-year-old daughter Ellie at Channing’s Child Care Academy, in the Austin neighborhood, on August 27, 2015.

Photo by Marc Monoghan

Lenita Edgeworth takes time during her lunch break to visit and read to her 8-year-old daughter Ellie at Channing’s Child Care Academy, in the Austin neighborhood, on August 27, 2015.

When Lenita Edgeworth moved from Chicago to Oak Park in January 2014, she soon started searching for a top-notch day care for her 1st-grade daughter, Ellie.

She already had found a place for Ellie to go before and after school during the school year, and now she needed a place for the summer. The single mom looked up all the daycares in and around Oak Park, then chose eight to visit. She talked with directors, teachers and other parents. She even checked out the vans the daycares used.

Eventually, she chose Channing’s Child Care in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood, near the city’s border with Oak Park. She described it as “homey,” and it had exactly what she needed: transportation, convenience and hot meals.

“When you first come in, you see the teachers, who almost look like grandmothers, and the whole set-up was real nice,” Edgeworth said.

Then last November, Edgeworth lost her job as a case manager at Bethel New Life. She was unemployed for six months and took her daughter to and from school herself during that time. She finally found work in April but the job — driving patients to pharmacies for a medical transportation company — paid nowhere near what she used to make. Summer was coming, and she worried she wouldn’t be able to afford Channing’s again.

But there was a silver lining: Her smaller paychecks made her eligible for the state’s Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP), which subsidizes child care costs for low-income families. CCAP reduced her monthly payments from $200 and $600 — depending on the time of year and services needed — to a $57 co-payment.

Edgeworth wants to leave her current job and return to the social services field, but a quest for upward mobility is a risk she’s not sure she wants to take. Under CCAP rules, if she were to end up out of work for more than 30 days, she would have to reapply. However, under new emergency rules imposed by Gov. Bruce Rauner in the absence of a state budget, Edgeworth would no longer be eligible.

Under the old rules, the day care assistance was restricted to families earning 185 percent of the federal poverty line, which for a family of two would be about $29,470 a year. Under the new emergency rules, the income cap is 50 percent of the federal poverty line, which would be $7,968 for a family of two. Currently, Edgeworth is making about $16,800.

(Some recipients, including those with children with special needs and teen mothers, are excluded from the new income cap.)

Child care advocates say the emergency rules will lock out an estimated 90 percent of the more than 5,000 previously eligible families. According to some estimates, the numbers could be even higher. In fiscal year 2013, the most recent for which data are available, 6,409 families statewide received CCAP benefits each month, according to the Department of Human Services (DHS).

“People have to make impossible choices,” said Megan Meyer, a spokesperson of the Ounce of Prevention Fund, an early childhood advocacy group whose president is the governor’s wife, Diana Rauner. “They have to decide to give up a job they’ve just gotten. They have to patch together care plans for their kids – my sister today, my neighbor tomorrow.”

Suffering childcare centers

As more families find out that they’re not eligible for CCAP, some childcare centers – which have yet to receive any CCAP payments in the new fiscal year – likely will see declining enrollment.*

Cerathel Burnett, CEO of the Carole Robertson Center for Learning near University Village, which serves children 5 and under, says her organization has built up enough reserves to stay afloat but that they still feel the negative effects of the emergency rules. She says she has had to deny four out of every five families who have applied since July 1.

Burnett says she understands the urgent need to remedy the state’s dire financial situation but not when it comes at the expense of families. She described how a mother applying to her center wanted to cut her work hours in half in order to get below the threshold for benefits.

Burnett’s main concern, however, is that even if the CCAP changes go away, the damage may have already been done.

“We will fill the spots with kids who meet the requirements, because that’s our bottom line,” Burnett says. “When the system rights itself, I might not have more spots and other organizations may not have survived. That’s the piece that keeps me up at night. These families will find fewer and fewer options. Where will they go?”

Moving forward

The new cuts follow a succession of day care funding woes dating back to February, when DHS announced it couldn’t afford to fund the day care program through the end of the fiscal year, June 30. The Legislature then came through.

Now, advocates for early childhood education are trying to undo the emergency rules they say could have disastrous effects on Illinois’ young children and their families.

“This isn’t affecting a few families here and there. We see this as a backdoor way to cut the legs off this program,” says Kaitlin DeCero, a spokeswoman for the Service Employees International Union Healthcare Illinois, which represents home care providers. “The idea that low-income parents are being targeted: It’s draconian and it’s unfair. Childcare is the last thing we should be cutting.”

Sessy Nyman, the vice president of policy and strategic partnerships at Illinois Action for Children, says their “best bet” for blocking the emergency rules came on Aug. 11, when the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR) reviewed them. However, the committee let the emergency rules stand, arguing that the rules are needed to manage finances without a state budget.

Another avenue is a bill due for a House vote in September, which would prevent such rules from being imposed in the future. Advocates say they’re working to make the law retroactive.

Illinois Action for Children also filed a complaint with DHS and JCAR to investigate the new rules’ legality. Four other groups joined: Children’s Home and Aid; the Ounce of Prevention Fund; Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law; and Voices for Illinois Children.

Back in Oak Park, Edgeworth says she will still keep her daughter in the same child care program even if she loses her CCAP benefits. She says she’ll find a way to pay the higher cost.

She then began to think through her monthly list of expenses: “I have no choice. I have to have child care. I can’t cut back on car insurance. I can’t cut back on rent. I’d have to cut back on food. No outside eating. No entertainment. I’ll have to make sure we wear our clothes and shoes to the very end.”

*Editor’s note: This article was updated on Friday, Aug. 28, 2015 at 5:15 p.m. to remove reference to enrollment information about It Takes A Village Early Learning Center that was provided by an employee who no longer works for the center, after a co-owner of the center disputed the information.

  • Dr Silicon

    I take care of my own kids perhaps you should do the same, if you can’t afford them don’t have them.

    • Shafela Beyekan

      Dr Silicon, Im sure you’re very blessed to not have suffered job loss and be forced to request assistance at some point. However dont look down your superior nose at others who try hard to work for a living and make the best of their situation. If all the children in this world were planned, the population would be in the thousands and not billions.

      • Dr Silicon

        There’s working hard and the 600% increase in the last couple of years of people just happy to live on the government tit living off others who are working hard.

        • LaTanya

          Dr. Silicon,
          if you are truly a doctor, unless you came from a privilege family and paid for your education without governmental assistance, loans/financial aide, then you would not understand. The government has a certain responsibility to its citizens. Hopefully you will never have to depend on anyone. Any assistance is aide. Be careful of how you condemn others you may be speaking into your future. Reread the story, this is a young responsible woman taking care of her responsibility and not living on the governments tits. I don’t know why I took the time to respond to your ignorance but it had to be said. Have a great day.

          • Dr Silicon

            Yeah don’t know why, apparently you have nothing else to do while eating your free cheese

          • Northside

            Let’s just pray that something catastrophic event doesn’t affect you. No one is 100 percent protected from financial ruin. so be careful what you say. I have a feeling that the very people you spit on, would probably come to your aid, because they have something called “compassion”…..maybe you should pick up the good book…or look your child in the eye. try telling them you don’t care about the poor…see what their reaction will be when they grow up…have you ever read Christmas Carol? Do you want to be known as a Scrooge?

    • BoringMan

      Everyone is perfect. No one ever faces hard times or discrimination. No one ever makes a mistake. All people are paid fairly according to their efforts. Best of all, all children are provided with equal and adequate resources as they grow into said perfect adults.

    • Lenita Edgeworth

      Dr. Silicon, everyone is entitled to their own opinion. But you don’t know me, so it would be wise to keep your opinion to yourself. I hate being on any govt assistance. I am well educated, experienced, professional, nice and kind. I help others, all the time and don’t judge. I only have one daughter cause I could only afford one daughter. Just to let you know, I have been working since I was 16. The reason I lost my job and had to apply for assistance was that I was taking care of my elderly, sickly mother. During the three years that I was her primary care giver before she passed in 2013, I missed some days at work. And at the job I was employed at, the time line for missing days didn’t end with the new year, it rolled over, so I have missed five days in four years!!! Not to mention, I had a young daughter that was starting her education. So yes it was tough but I can handle it. And just to let you know, since I have been unemployed, I have volunteered at the Daycare that my daughter goes to, I have attended conferences, seminars and training to keep my current experience, skills, training and certificates up to date, so when I return to the Social Services field, I will not be behind and outdated.
      So yes, I hate I have to receive govt assistance because I only have one child and should be able to take care of her with ease, but right now that’s not the case. I’m glad you have been fortunate enough to take care of your kids without any govt assistance but that is not the case with EVERY INDIVIDUAL IN AMERICA.
      I didn’t have to tell you my business but I decided to. SO next time, you decide to give YOUR OWN RIGHTEOUS OPINION about someone else, take the time to get to know them and/or their situation because I can bet 10000%, you have no idea what they have went thru or what they have to go thru!
      Enjoy your Labor’s Day Weekend, DR!!!

      • Dr Silicon

        Thank goodness or we would more of your worthless turds on welfare

        • Lenita Edgeworth

          Good evening, Dr. Silicon!You are absolutely right, THANK GOD! THANK GOD that we didn’t have to take care of your worthless turds! Now we are taking care of your worthless grand-turds!
          Because if your worthless turds are anything like u, they & their kids, have a mental disability and is on some kinds of govt assistance! So maybe that’s why u are bitter & angry. Because not only u, but Tax Paying Citizens, have to take care of your grand-turd litter! You are ignorant & I am done responding to your ignorance! Enjoy your evening! Cause I definitely will enjoy mine & my Blessed Life!

          • Dr Silicon

            Thank god I thought I was going to have to keep hearing from your welfare sucking turd hole.

    • Alyesa Edgeworth

      You are not a REAL doctor! If you were you would NOT look down on people. Every REAL doctor I know had to struggle and use GOVERNMENT ASSISTANCE to get thru medical school. Get your NEGATIVE comments in order. Keep your hateful, ungrateful, ignorant self in your home NEVER to be around people. I pray your kids become better people than you. My sister is the best mother to my niece than you as a so-called father to your kids. Thank God she has only one. You probably have several by different women. Go climb under ground and stay there.

  • Northside

    Dr Silicon
    unless you were born in the desert and had no contact with humans..you too have used “government handouts”. Every time you use an airport..you have used the government subsidies that built the airport. the police that protect your home, are a government subsidy. The university you attended was subsidized by the government. the people who check the safety of your food are a government subsidy. the public school you attended. To act like you some how are ‘self sufficient” , is a bit naïve on your part. the wars that were fought. the medicare that pays for your parents health care.
    even if you were so rich you built your own airports, hospitals etc you are still very misguided, have you every heard of compassion? I understand some people abuse the system, but using does not always mean abusing. if you know your history, we have had many periods of times when it was every man for himself ….and those times did not end well. we all are entitled to our opinions, but demeaning people who need a little assistance, is very unchristian or uncivilized (if you are prefer).

  • Dr Silicon

    Never used a government handout in my life, could have file for unemployment but I didn’t I took PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY for myself and my family. If you want to call driving down the road a government handout, I guess that goes back to the why liars figure…