by Amanda Valdes
Rochester, N.Y. — Heartbreak still lingers in the community after last week’s tragic accident at Tim Hortons on University Avenue where a little boy died after he fell into a grease trap.
Rochester Police say Bryce Raynor’s mother was unable to find child care that day and therefore had to bring him to work.
His story is highlighting the need for more child care options in the area.
Rosa Marie Curtis says she’s one of the mothers who has been impacted by Bryce’s death. As the mother of two, she knows the challenge of finding affordable and accessible child care.
“It’s always been. ‘This place is great [but] it costs a little too much,’” she explained.
Curtis has had to turn to family for help.
“We were piecing together shifts. ‘Who has got Tuesday? Who has got Friday?’”
She knows other families have struggled with the same challenges and that’s why she came up with the concept of The Hangout Spot. The program is designed to provide affordable child care to families no matter what shift they are working.
It’s also designed to be a location where parents can drop off their children if they are working an overnight shift.
Through partnerships in the community, Curtis has worked to secure funding to make her dream a reality. She said the Rochester facility is expected to open by the start of this school year.
But, says there have been many challenges along the way. “Licensing is a huge challenge, location, when it comes to facilities,” she said.
Pete Nabozny, director of policy at The Children’s Agenda, said the cost of child care can be difficult for many families.
“The average rate is about $1,000 a month for just one kid who is three,” he said. “Child care is more expensive than SUNY tuition in this state and more expensive than a lot of people are paying for rent.”
He said some child care providers set up waitlists. As kids age out of their age group, the providers can then bring in more kids. However, that leaves families to figure out what they can do in the meantime.
Finding child care can be even more challenging for low-income families, Nabozny said. But, there are resources that can help.
“Monroe County, with funding from the federal government, the state, and county, operates a child care assistance program. So if both parents are working, they can apply for child care assistance and the county will defray some of the costs,” he explained.
In order to apply, parents have to pay a fee. That fee was recently lowered by the county. Nabozny said the county is currently accepting applications.
According to Nabozny, the number of child care slots in Monroe County has declined by about 10 percent over the last five years.
“So that, to me, shows those child care providers are struggling to even stay open,” he said.
Sometimes, families have an emergency need for child care. The Center for Youth runs two crisis nurseries where families can stay from between three to five days, according to Elaine Spaull, executive director.
“This is a bigger conversation about pay equity, affordable care, and where things are located and how they are licensed,” she said.
One of the houses is located at 464 Rosewood Terrace and the second at 201 Genesee Park Blvd. Spaull said it’s important to call ahead to see if there is room.
The center also has a 24–hour line for help.
Spaull believes more funding is needed to help families in need of child care.
“I’m saying that’s where our money should go: to fill those gaps.”
Contact the Monroe County Department of Human Services at (585) 753-6960 to learn more about child care subsidies.
The Center for Youth’s 24-hour line can be reached at (585) 235-5750.