Calcasieu parents struggle to find affordable childcare despite utilities

Lake Charles, LA (KPLC) – Many parents struggle to access affordable childcare. Especially after changes were made by the school system of the parish of Calcasieu.

A mom trying to navigate how her kids will get the care they need tells 7News she’s worried about the upcoming school year.

“I feel like I’m going two steps forward and six steps back, but I have to keep going. I have to pass for my kids,” Lettie Lee said.

Lee is a single mother of three boys, 11-year-old twins and 6-year-old twins. She is eligible for state childcare assistance, the so-called Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP). Her problem now is that the program has not been widely accessible since the Calcasieu schools stopped participating in CCAP a few months ago, and not all nurseries accept it either.

“The fear and the fear of not knowing what will happen to my children in the future after school really bothers me, because I want to know. I want to make sure that plan ‘A’ is there, plan ‘B’ is there, and make sure my kids are taken care of,” Lee said.

She explained that she cannot currently afford the costs of the school’s extensive daytime program on her own, and if she were to send them to a daycare center that accepts CCAP, she would run into the transportation problem.

“For me, paying out of pocket would be almost $500 a month,” Lee said. “I just can not. As a single parent with a limited income, I simply cannot do that.”

Lee said there seem to be challenges everywhere with the program.

The Calcasieu Parish School Board explains that the requirements to participate in CCAP are comprehensive and cost-effective. A statement from CPSB reads:

The Calcasieu Parish School Board stopped participating in the Child Care Assistance Program a few months ago. The requirements to join the Child Care Assistance Program are extensive and prohibitive. Enforcing the requirements to continue accepting the discount payments was not affordable for our district due to the low number of families enrolled in the Child Care Assistance Program. But even without discounted rates available through the Child Care Assistance Program, the CPSB’s comprehensive day programs remain the most affordable options for families.

As for Lee, she’s been exploring other options like having a family member babysit her kids after school, but they also have their own jobs. She said there is no easy solution and has even considered reducing her hours at work, but that creates a financial bond.

“The only other option is to potentially take out a small loan to help pay for the longer day after school, but then I’ll start worrying about the cost of paying that back. And then in the future it just becomes a never-ending thing,” Lee said.

She said she hopes more programs or a solution will become available before the school year begins to help her and other families in a similar situation.

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