Training and more money for child-care providers were the topics that dominated a statewide public hearing on how the Department of Human Services should spend federal block grant funds.
Citizens, providers and advocates gathered in 11 locations Friday afternoon, linked by an interactive television system, to discuss use of the Child Care and Development Block Grant. A committee, chaired by Julie Olson, Office of Family Support, will make the decision, working with representatives from Community and Economic Development, Education and Health departments.Utah will receive $7 million for fiscal year 1991, $8 million in '92 and 8.9 million in '93. The funds, authorized by U.S. Congress for child care, can't be used in place of public money that is already earmarked for child care.
"Provider rates are something we have all (members of the committee) agreed we will be looking at," said Olson.
The state pays for child care so a parent on public assistance can become self-sufficient through work or schooling. But the state payment is much lower than the fee paid by other clients. Child-care providers said that payment often is less than actual cost of providing the care, so the cost is passed on to other clients.
"Utah's payment for social service children is less than half what neighboring states pay," said Ginger Lewis, a single parent and the operator of a child care center in Utah County. "All you can do for $8.60 is warehouse a child. So private-paying parents are unknowingly subsidizing care."
Utah needs to link money to quality caregiving, said Ann Cox. "If you want quality care, it is necessary to have quality caregivers. There are many centers with 50 percent teacher turnover."
The state doesn't allocate money to training, according to Phil Brown, Family Life and Education Department at the College of Eastern Utah. "That has to change. I would suggest that as money's made available, we issue a challenge to schools that they be flexible and do whatever is necessary to provide training in such a way that everyone interested has access to it."
Several people expressed concern about the cost of getting a child-care license. Others complained that not everyone is licensed and, with the possible exception of relatives, they should be no matter how few children they tend.
Most of the providers agreed that there are lots of child-care centers, but single parents complained that many won't accept children subsidized by the state, so adequate child care is not always accessible.
By law, three-fourths of the money is to be used to provide services or to improve availability and quality of services. Most of the money is to be used to assist low-income families. At least 20 percent will be used for resource and referral, loans and grants, monitoring, training and compensation to child care providers. All payments must allow equal access to services.
The money cannot be used to buy or build facilities or for permanent improvements. The money can be used to make minor improvements to bring a facility up to standards.
Written comments can be sent to the Office of Family Support, Attn: Julie Olson, P.O. Box 45500, Salt Lake City, UT 84145-0500.