This story originally appeared on KERA News.
Neoshia Barree works 40 hours a week doing billing and scheduling for an anesthesia company in Las Colinas. The single mom – who has a toddler and a 7 year old – is also halfway through nursing school. Her life is about as busy as it gets. But for the first time in months, she feels downright relaxed.
“This year started off so good, you know? I can buy their spring clothes, I can afford rent, I can put money aside. I can live,” she says.
Up until last month, Barree spent more than $800 a month on childcare.
“When I got paid, I didn’t do anything. I went and paid that and then my life depended on how much I had after that came out,” she says.” So it was a little tight, but it’s almost like gas, you have no choice but to pay, you can’t really complain about it.”
Now? Barree’s childcare bill is less than $300 a month, about a third of what she used to pay.
A ‘Scary Cool’ Return On Investment
Dallas Women’s Foundation has teamed up with Educational First Steps to help women like Barree, who qualify for federal childcare subsidies. That money can take up to six months to arrive, so these two North Texas nonprofits are helping families bridge the gap.
Roslyn Dawson Thompson is President and CEO of Dallas Women’s Foundation.
“For every dollar that we put into the program, that mom’s family and she are benefiting for $4.39, which is a scary cool return on investment,” she says.
Here’s what that means. Putting money into the bridge fund dramatically reduces what parents have to spend on child care. That allows people to accept – and keep – their jobs.
High Quality Peace Of Mind
Dawson Thompson says the reality is, for some people, unemployment makes more sense than working all week just to pay for daycare.
“One of the moms that qualified for the program had gotten a new job as an assistant manager in a jewelry store and she was going to take home $276 a week,” she says. “And her childcare was going to cost her $243.”
Another problem the bridge fund hopes to address is parents putting their kids in low-quality child care in order to save money. Neoshia Barree says feeling secure about the place where her kids spend their day is extremely important.
“I need a peace of mind, I’m here eight hours a day,” says Barree. “I need to make sure that my kids are being cared for and not being abused.”
A First Step
The bridge fund typically helps families get by for three to six months, until those federal subsidies kick in. The amount each family gets is different, depending on income and number of children. Some may get more than $4,500 through the bridge fund. Dawson Thompson says that’s money incredibly well invested and that it’s also only the first step.
“We do not have enough childcare options in this community that are affordable, and we do not have enough childcare options that are accessible to women in their neighborhoods.”
That’s a problem that will take much longer to solve, and it’s one North Texas non-profits aren’t ignoring.