"Molly" is a full-time student at Pennsylvania College of Technology with a part-time job and a 7-year-old son. On a part-time salary, she cannot afford typical day-care tuition fees to care for her son while she goes to school and work.
The questions confronting her were life-changing. Should she quit college and resolve herself to a lifetime of minimum wage jobs to pay for child care? Should she stay home with her son and collect welfare assistance?
Thanks to funding from Lycoming County United Way for child care scholarships at the YMCA, she doesn't have to sacrifice her future career and earnings just to pay for child care.
The YMCA child care program, funded inpart by the Lycoming County United Way, serves children ages 6 weeks to 12 years, from families marginally above poverty level, whose families attend school and work less than 18 hours per week, whose families attend school full-time or whose families do not qualify for any other subsidy program.
"The funds provided by United Way are used to subsidize child care services to families meeting established eligibility guidelines based on family size and income," explained Carolyn Hawk, child care director for River Valley Regional YMCA Child Care Services. "We provide quality childcare services to families regardless of their ability to pay."
Last fall, two grandmothers approached the director of one of the YMCA's child care centers for help. The two women had just obtained shared custody of their two grandchildren, a toddler and an infant, and needed help paying for day care.
"We both have jobs but we could not afford full-time tuition for them. We were so grateful when we learned the YMCA could help through United Way funds and we could keep our jobs," one of the grandmothers said.
The child care program serves children ages 6 weeks to 12 years, from families marginally above poverty level, whose families attend school and work less than 18 hours per week, whose families attend school full-time or whose families do not qualify for any other subsidy program.
"By making quality child care available to all families, children are given the opportunity to develop social skills as well as academic skills that are necessary for future success," Hawk added. "All of our child care programs utilize developmentally appropriate curriculums that enhance this development."
"Stacy" was working but starting to drown in debt supporting her children. There were days when she feared she would lose their home or that she wouldn't be able to make her paycheck stretch far enough for groceries. Paying for child care while she went to work was a burden that was becoming overwhelming.
A day care scholarship was the difference between Stacy keeping her job (and advancing and growing professionally) and quitting her job to stay home with her children and collect welfare assistance.
"It is cliche, but we operate on the 'hand up, not a hand out' basis," said Rosann Pelleschi, director of funds distribution and community building for United Way. "When we are able to fund programs that keep people working and supporting their own families today and in the future, we have a greater positive impact on the community."
The River Valley Regional YMCA is the largest child care provider in Lycoming County. This year, more than $289,000 in Y-scholarships has been granted to local families, according to Hawk. This includes $47,500 provided by United Way through its annual funds distribution process determined by community volunteers.
Because of the current trends in the economy and difficulty resolving the state budget, more people are applying for YMCA scholarships for reduced rates in their child care. RVR YMCA branches are supposed to receive state subsidies for caring for children of low income families. Since the state budget has not been approved, the funds have significantly been reduced, but the local YMCAs continue to provide services for these families.
"Currently, the RVR YMCA is still providing all of these services to their families without interruption. We know in tough times like these, families need us more than ever to keep them as a productive part of our economy," Hawk said. "Without these services there would be a detrimental slide to the well-being of our children and ultimately our community."
"We are happy to be able to fund this program at the YMCA because it makes a genuine difference in the lives of not only the children and their early childhood education, but also strengthens the overall family unit and their well-being," said Scott N. Lowery, LCUW executive director. "When parents work, they earn needed income, contribute to the overall community economy, and gain a sense of self-worth and satisfaction that is important in the families' everyday lives."
For information on child care at the YMCA, call 323-7134, or visit www.williamsportymca.org. For more information about Lycoming County United Way or to support the campaign that funds programs such as this, visit www.lcuw.org or call 323-9448.