Congresswoman visits YMCA Child Care Center
Congresswoman Susan Brooks cooed at babies, sat among toddlers during snack time, and watched pre-kindergarteners build a racetrack last week as she toured the YMCA Child Care Development Center.
Brooks, R-5th District, made the stop in Kokomo to get a look at the inter-workings of child care centers as part of a congressional initiative to make quality child care available to all families.
“We know that affordable and accessible child care is what’s going to help children finish school, get them back into the workforce after having kids, and we’ve got to make it available,” she said.
The initiative, called “The Better Way,” features a section on poverty that puts an emphasis on ensuring “poor kids have more opportunities to succeed, from childhood to college.”
Brooks was guided on the tour by Child Care Director Christie Tate, YMCA Director Dave Dubois, and Senior Program Director Ikeia Prince.
Brooks inquired about the cost of the YMCA’s child care, to which Dubois answered that the most expensive option is $160 a week, though nearly half of the families receive assistance, some of which covers the entire bill.
Dubois added that, as part of the Y’s mission, no child is turned away due to financial issues.
The U.S. representative also inquired about the impact the heroin and opioid epidemic has had on families at the center.
“The courts are saying it’s been more an issue of neglect than abuse and so forth and just wondered whether or not the Ys and the programs have seen increased concerns about parents with maybe some of those problems,” she said.
Tate responded that the center is obligated to report any cases and have had to in the past.
“It’s never a fun thing to do, but again we’re here to do what’s best for the children, not to do what’s best for the parent at that point,” Tate said. “Of course our families are important. We want to look out for the entire family, but at the end of the day we have to do what’s best for the kids.”
Tate said parents are open with her, and if they’re having issues, whether it’s a lack of food and clothing or mental health issues, she will refer them to nearby agencies.
“If I see a parent that I am maybe just starting to see a couple of warning signs, not anything where I need to report it, I have a list of outside organizations that I actually can pull resources from and say, ‘OK, I’ve noticed your child is coming in in the same outfit three times in a row. Here’s the number for the Salvation Army. They can maybe help with clothes,’” she said.
Ahead of Brooks’ trip to the center, she said she learned that the Kokomo YMCA was one of the first in the state and got its start in 1875, another nod to the City of Firsts.
Before leaving the center, Brooks thanked the staff for the trip down memory lane. With two grown children, ages 26 and 23, she said it had been a long time since she had been inside a child care center, though she said she clearly recalled how important quality child care was to her when her children were younger.
She remembered how hard it was to leave her children with people who were just strangers at first and the trust that must be built among parents.
With a tenured staff at the center, Brooks said their experience and knowledge were apparent.
“You can tell, so congratulations,” she said.