Child care cuts leave San Francisco families reeling

Mike Koozmin/The SF ExaminerWorking mom: Single parent Veronica Robles is worried about being able to afford day care for her three kids after her state child care subsidy was cut in half.

Subsidized child care is what keeps Veronica Robles’ family in the middle class.

“I don’t like to think about what would happen if it got taken away,” said the San Bruno single mom, who has worked as an operator at Blue Cross in The City for five years. “It would be a step into poverty. It would eventually end up with me losing my job, because who would care for my kids?”

That dire scenario is becoming a real possibility for Robles and her three school-aged children. Last summer, her subsidy was halved when California cut more than $400 million from child care programs and reduced the
maximum-income eligibility. And early next year, the state is poised to cut another $23 million from child care programs, after tax revenue for this year fell short.

“You picture the impact on kids, and that obviously can be quite negative, but a lot of the stories we hear are from parents at the cusp of eligibility,” said Aaron Rosenthal, a spokesman for the Children’s Council of San Francisco. “The child care subsidy really allows them to participate in the economy.”

The nonprofit, which administers state subsidies to families in The City, is scrambling to cope with the upcoming cuts, Rosenthal said.

“It creates a tremendous amount of work for our case workers,” he said. “And of course the real burden is on our families. It forces people into very hard choices.”

Robles’ children are cared for after school by a relative, a common arrangement for families who do not qualify for maximum state aid. But the relative depends on the $700 monthly income from Robles’ child care subsidy to pay his own rent and other expenses, and he has warned her that he might have to give up baby-sitting so he can find another way to pay the bills.

“You can’t trust your kids to be on their own in this day and age,” said Robles, whose children are 11, 9 and 7.

Child care providers also are suffering, said Gwendolyn Cook, who has run a day care out of her home in San Mateo for 20 years. Cook said she lost four families after last summer’s budget cuts. Those parents, she said, are now leaving their young children with teenage baby-sitters.

“It was devastating for me and the parents,” Cook said. “Sacramento, they need to really think. It affects so many people. Not just the kids, but their parents, me. It’s a ripple effect. I would tell them, think if it was their kids.”

Robles said she is trying to persuade other parents to speak out about how cuts to child care are affecting them. But, she said, working parents are hard to mobilize.

“We work full time, we rush to pick up the kids,” Robles said. “You go home, cook dinner and get the kids up to go to school the next day.”

acrawford@sfexaminer.com

Helping hand

Details about California’s public child care programs:

$42,000 Upper income limit for a family of three to qualify

$2.4B Funding this year

$2.8B Funding last year

308,000 Children enrolled

190,000 Children on waiting list

Sources: California Budget Project, Legislative Analyst’s Office, National Women’s Law Center

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