Guest Column: United Way helps make child care affordable

Published 10:24 pm Friday, June 9, 2017

Live United by Sue Loch

As I sit writing this column, I am troubled. I find it very sad that our society seems to worship entertainers and athletes, while the professionals who take care of our children and aging parents are extremely underpaid and definitely don’t get the respect they deserve!

I’ve been the executive director of The Children’s Center for eight months now. During this time, I’ve witnessed over and over what a wonderful place we have here in our community! Our teachers and staff are amazing. They go over and above on a daily basis. They spend their days caring for our children, giving extra hugs if needed and guiding them in learning acceptable behavior. They also teach the curriculum they have written, plan amazing art projects and teach basic things like manners, acceptance and empathy. I’m continually amazed at the patience of our teachers and what a huge impact they are making on the lives of not only the children, but their entire families.

Sue Loch

I can tell you that I would love nothing more than to give each and every one of those wonderful teachers and staff a huge raise! I wish our society valued the care that they give day in and day out. I wish our society would truly figure out a way to give them what they deserve. They don’t ask for it, but I’m sure it would be more than welcome! They come to work every day with a great attitude and spend their own money on things like toys, books and things they just can’t resist because they know the kids would love them. They work as a team and help each other out constantly. We often say that it takes a village to raise a child and this is demonstrated continually at The Children’s Center.

I’ve heard it said that kindergarten teachers can tell when a child has come from The Children’s Center. They know these children are prepared and ready for kindergarten. This is because our preschool rooms strive to implement diverse and effective curriculum that will give our children the tools they need to be successful when entering kindergarten.

Matt Knutson wrote an article titled “There are too many variables in child care” in the Albert Lea Tribune back in October 2016. It hangs on my bulletin board as a reminder that we have work to do. We need to band together as advocates for both children and families. The family unit has changed tremendously in the past 50 years. Today, there is no “typical” family. Most families have one or both parents working outside of the home, so most children attend some kind of child care. Oftentimes, it is low-quality care, which may be the only care available. Quality child care is extremely expensive because 80 percent of our expenses are labor costs. And yet, those teachers and staff are not paid what they are worth because parents can’t and shouldn’t have to bear the cost alone. Centers such as ours must seek additional funding to help offset costs that the market can’t bear.

The United Way has been wonderfully supportive and allows us to offer a sliding-fee scale for those parents that need assistance with the costs of child care. And there is a need for such help. Currently, 34 percent of our families are on the sliding fee scale. With your continued support of the local United Way, we can continue to offer quality child care and make a difference in hundreds of lives in our community.

Sue Loch is the executive director of The Children’s Center in Albert Lea.