Proposed day care fee hike blasted

November 19, 1997

Proposed day care fee hike blasted


Staff Writer, Chambersburg

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Low-income families may face higher child-care fees at state-licensed day care centers if the state Department of Public Welfare's proposed regulations are approved.

But state Rep. Jeffrey W. Coy, D-Franklin, punched holes in the proposal at a Tuesday meeting at Learn and Grow Child Care in Chambersburg. He said it sets unrealistically high fees for parents who are struggling financially and that it may force some to seek cheaper, unregulated day care.

"I'm concerned these rules and regulations of the Department of Public Welfare are going to result in less adequate and less effective day care for Pennsylvanians," Coy said.


Coy started a petition seeking changes to the proposal that will be distributed to all day care centers in Franklin and Cumberland counties.

The new regulations are required following state and federal welfare reform that limits the amount of cash assistance an individual can receive and forces recipients into the work force.

But the state welfare department is trying to combine funding for day care available for welfare recipients with subsidies for the working poor, which means serving more people with the same amount of money, Coy said.

The proposal introduces a plan to increase the co-payments that parents pay by as much as 100 percent to 300 percent more than what they now pay.

The difference can mean a $10 or $20 increase in co-payments a week, or as much as $80 a month or $1,000 a year, Coy said.

"This means a parent who is struggling to provide basic necessities for her family may be compelled to select cheaper, less satisfactory child care for her children," he said.

It means parents may have to compromise the safety of their children, said Cecelia Cosenza, owner of Child Care Connection, a day care service that manages nine state-certified homes in Waynesboro, Greencastle and Mercersburg, Pa.

No health and safety requirements are set for unregulated day care facilities and the providers are not subject to criminal or background checks, Cosenza said.

Child Care Connection homes are all inspected and have to meet state safety requirements, including no exposed electrical cords, properly working smoke detectors and fire extinguishers, and up-to-date liability insurance, Cosenza said.

If child care costs are raised, some parents could be forced to turn to their older children to care for younger siblings, meaning unsupervised 10- and 11-year-olds will be watching toddlers and babies, said Jackie Green, owner of Learn and Grow Child Care.

Day care providers at Child Care Connection homes aren't allowed to have more than six children in their care at any one time, unlike some unregulated facilities she knows of that have as many as 15 children.

Parents have enough trouble with child care as it is, without the threat of having to pay more, said About 80 percent of Green's clients get some kind of financial help for child care, she said.

In Pennsylvania, more than 286,000 children under age 13 need subsidized child care and that number is expected to increase by more than 15,000 each year for the next five years, Coy said.

"The bottom line is that the Commonwealth can't keep a mask on and pretend that welfare reform is working when our parents can't fund affordable, quality day care," Coy said.

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