Our state needs more affordable child care and high quality preschool. I am lucky that I was able to enroll my children in the Centralia College Early Learning Program. In the last year, I have transitioned from working to finishing high school and am now currently enrolled in college to become a medical assistant. When I first started going back to school, I was working 12-hour shifts throughout the night six days a week and taking classes during the day. I was miserable and still did not make enough to pay for child care and my bills but was doing what I needed to do to provide for my family. I know I am not alone in this struggle.
After the pandemic hit, the schools and daycares were closed, but I continued attending online classes for spring and summer. I lost my job but continued going to school while caring for my kids. When fall came around, I was able to attend classes in person and I was so stressed I had no idea what I was going to do. I could not afford child care, or afford a quality one. My son finally made it off a wait list for ECEAP. I was ecstatic. I really wanted my children to have a safe, stable place to be.
At this point I knew I was going to have to put one child in one child care and then the other in a different one. I wasn’t sure how I would do that. My family support worker at ECEAP informed me they had a toddler program and they had space for my daughter. Not only do my children have a safe, affordable place to be, they have made incredible strides in all aspects of their development. ECEAP also sends me great parenting tips and tricks, and even send me updates on what my children do throughout the day. ECEAP has become part of my village, they’re the support I was searching for. Our area is a child care desert and high quality preschool and child care is hard to find and afford. ECEAP teachers deserve better pay for the work that they do. Children deserve opportunities. There is a great opportunity in the Legislature right now to do right by children, families, ECEAP staff and child care providers. I hope that the legislature will fund this program to expand and serve more families like mine.