Sen. Bennet talks child care challenges in Rifle
When it comes to affordable and quality child care in Garfield County, parents are frequently left with few options — an imbalance that can lead to decisions they otherwise would not make.
That was U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet’s assessment after hearing from mothers and childcare experts Monday in Rifle.
While there are some qualifying details more specific to Rifle and the county, the broader issue is not unique to the area, said Bennet, a Democrat and Colorado’s senior senator who is facing Republican challenger Darryl Glenn in the November election.
“What I heard here today is very consistent with what I’ve heard around the state,” Bennet said after a quick tour of Caring Kids Preschool in Rifle and a forum with area mothers. “I think there are probably greater access issues here just because of the distances that people have to travel for work or to put their child in a place like this, and weather challenges that some people in other parts of the state don’t face, but in terms of the kinds of decisions people have to make in order to keep their child in this center was very consistent with what I’ve heard (elsewhere in the state).”
A lack of options in the area led Jennifer Knott, with the assistance of many people, to open Caring Kids Preschool in Rifle about eight months ago. As a mother of two, Knott was unable to find child care that would allow her to go back to work.
Caring Kids currently is 100 percent full with 37 children. The wait list ranges between 40 to 45 children, said Lorie Bishop, director of Caring Kids. Once a bathroom on the second floor is renovated, Knott and crew hope to double the center’s capacity and take in another 30 to 40 children.
“It’s something we desperately needed,” Mindy Pope, a single mother of two, told Bennet regarding Caring Kids.
Many of the challenges discussed Monday echoed those covered by the Post Independent in a two-part story series published earlier this month. Those stories touched on both the challenges to parents left with little options, as well as the hurdles facing providers.
“It’s hard but we want to be able to provide this to the community,” Knott said after rattling off a number of recurring expenses.
Bennet said the escalating cost of child care, along with other services such as health care and higher education, are “conspiring to force people that … in the long run aren’t getting them where they need to be.”
The problem, he added, is while all of those services have become dramatically more expensive, wages have largely stayed flat.
There is no simple solution, but Bennet said increasing a federal tax credit for child care, known as the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit, would be a solid step in the right direction. Bennet wants to expand the current caps of $3,000 for one child and $6,000 for two or more to $8,000 and $16,000 respectively.
“There are a lot of different dimensions to this but I do think that increasing the tax credit at the federal level as a recognition of the struggle people are having paying for this would be an important first step,” he said.