By Ruth Ann Hornback

The childcare industry in Kentucky has been impacted the last couple of years with all of the changes to the state’s Child Care Assistance Program.  Right now our industry employs over 13,000 people statewide. Our voice is important as we pay a good sum in payroll taxes to the Commonwealth and to local governments. We also pay property taxes, so having a thriving industry is a benefit to everyone. We are proud of the way we not only care for but also educate our children. The children that attend our privately owned centers consistently score the highest kindergarten readiness rates when compared to all known child care settings.

Right now there is a question as to how long private child care centers can continue to participate in the Child Care Assistance Program.  Centers have not received a reimbursement rate increase since 2006. Our number one priority in working with the Governor, his staff, and the General Assembly members for this current Frankfort legislative session is to gain a significant increase in the Child Care Assistance Program’s reimbursement rate so we can serve more children on CCAP.

Let me share a story with you related to one of the centers I own.  In 2013, before the CCAP eligibility reduction and freeze, I was operating at full capacity with 65% of my children on CCAP. There were also two other child care centers on the same street as mine that were run by churches and another church owned daycare that was about a half mile from me. I had been open for eight years and the church daycares had been around for 25+ years.  After the CCAP freeze and reduction in eligibility to 100% of FPL, all of the church daycares closed down because they could not justify continuing to put church funds into a failing business. I lost more than half of my children because the parents were no longer eligible for child care assistance. These parents had to either quit their jobs to stay home with their children or find someone to watch their children. This sometimes meant leaving them with older siblings, neighbors, boyfriends, or other relatives.

We were all feeling the desperation of parents trying to figure out what to do and at the same time we, as business owners, were trying to just stay afloat when we felt like we were sinking fast. We just knew they had to fund this program again, and thanks to the General Assembly’s commitment to child care assistance, funding was restored in the 2014 budget legislative session. In August 2015, the CCAP program was reopened and eligibility was restored. We are slowly getting the children back into our centers, and we are doing our best to make up for that lost year in getting our preschoolers ready for kindergarten.

The parents are working or going to school to try to provide a better life for themselves and their children. CCAP is a very important program for the families of Kentucky, but unless the Governor and the legislature sees the importance of it by increasing the reimbursement rates, it isn’t enough to sustain it in the future.  I fear that more and more centers will simply determine that the costs of being tied to CCAP far outweigh the benefits and will drop the program from their centers or simply go out of business.  Either way, the loss is felt by working families who rely on quality care in order to remain in the workforce.

It is time for all of us to contact our legislators and let them know how important this program is and that it is long overdue for a rate increase.  This is the only way we can continue to serve the low-income working families of our Commonwealth and provide employment and opportunity for the many thousands in our workforce.  Please call 1-800-372-7181 today and leave a message for your state representative and state senator.

Ruth Ann Hornback owns three child care centers in Jefferson County and is the Secretary-Treasurer of Child Care Advocates of Kentucky, an advocacy organization that was formed in 2012.