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Area parents finding no easy answers to child care

by Darlene J. Taylor

STAFF WRITER

CLARKSBURG -- Jodie Murphy of Glenwood Hill is hoping that she will qualify for child care assistance now that she has landed a full-time job.

Murphy has worked part-time for years, sometimes working two jobs. She always depended on her mother to watch her 9-year-old son and now a 6-month-old son. But her mother's eyesight is beginning to fail, so child care will be needed if she is going to keep her new job.

"It's difficult to afford child care for two children when you only make $6.85 an hour," said Murphy, who is a single mother. "I know it will be a hardship if I don't get a subsidy but I have to work."

Area child care providers say the scenario is all too familiar.

Karen Phillips, owner/director of Mother Goose Land, Nutter Fort, said about a third of her clients receive subsidies.

"I have seen parents whose children are in child care with some assistance. They are cut off the subsidy for maybe making $10 more on their paycheck," Phillips said. "They can't afford the entire payment. They have to quit working. Others must pull their children out of child care due to the hardship and leave them with a relative."

Dorothy Massey, director of Kiddie Korner, Shinnston, said 75 percent of her clients receive subsidies.

"Some single parents as well as couples qualify for it depending on their income," Massey said.

Child care in the local area runs about $85 a week for children under 2 and $60-$65 for children 2 and over.

The welfare reorganization law put the emphasis on getting people back to work, said John Law, Department of Health and Human Resources spokesman.

"We found that it is not as easy as it sounds. In West Virginia, we discovered the two main factors are transportation and child care," Law said.

The state receives $40 million a year from the federal government to help administer the welfare reorganization program with a large portion of that going to child care services.

"We work with our recipients and other people to provide these services through child care centers and small private providers, including family members. We help pay for child care services on a sliding scale," Law said.

Missy and John Koon of Bridgeport have chosen to have their three children, a 12-year-old girl, 9-year-old boy and 2-1/2-year-old girl, in child care.

"The two oldest are now in school. They all three have went to Mother Goose Land," said Missy Koon. "I do feel it is a major expense. In my situation, I've always felt that I don't have to worry about them. I can do my job and know they are in good care."

Koon said her two older children have excelled in school.

"I think that is partly due to getting the social skills and developmental instruction at the child care center. It's very good for the kids for social reasons. When it becomes their first day of school, they are prepared in many ways," Koon said.

There are no easy answers for the national problem of affordable quality child care.

"I think they should increase the income guidelines to allow more families to qualify for child care assistance," Massey said.

Law said it's hard enough for people to find jobs in West Virginia without the added burden of trying to afford child care.

"We can certainly use more money and we are working with our congressional delegation to get more."

Staff writer Darlene J. Taylor can be reached at 626-1403 or by e-mail at dtaylor@exponent-telegram.com