Vt. families struggle with soaring child care costs - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Vt. families struggle with soaring child care costs

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At Pine Forest Children's Center in Burlington an emphasis is placed on early learning.

"It's really important to be an education center that is providing high quality learning experiences to prepare them for the formal learning years," said Amy Ligay of Pine Forest Children's Center.

Pine Forest teaches everything from social skills to self-esteem. It has 75 kids enrolled and 48 standing by to get in. One of those kids waiting is 3-year-old Alexis. Her older brother, Alex, is already enrolled in Pine Forest and so was Alexis. Her stepmom, Katlyn McMahon, and dad pulled her out after they got married and no longer received enough state assistance to send both kids to child care.

Reporter Gina Bullard: Was it a hard decision to pull one of your kids out of child care?

Katlyn McMahon: Oh, yes. I broke down and cried a few times because it's a great experience for them both. It was sad to choose who to take out and who to keep in.

Not only did they have to pull Alexis out, but Katlyn had to quit her day job as a licensed nursing assistant so she could watch Alexis during the day and waitress at night.

"Heartbroken as a parent-- it's telling your kid you can't go to school anymore and they wake up and they're so excited about going," McMahon said.

"Every child deserves equal access to high quality early learning," Ligay said.

Pine Forest, like many child cares around the state, costs over $200 a week per child. Forty percent of the kids come from low-income families. The center qualifies for federal funding, making up for tuition costs families can't pay.

"If you can't get 100 percent for tuition then it's too hard to operate because you don't have enough income," Ligay said.

As for Alexis, she's on the waiting list for Pine Forest next year. Alex will be off to kindergarten and the family can reallocate those funds to child care for her.

"I don't feel entitled to anything," McMahon said. "I work really hard for my money. I pay taxes. But it's difficult when you have to pull your kid out of school because you can't afford it."

McMahon plans to go back to school to become an RN.

This topic definitely hit a nerve with WCAX News viewers, bringing in hundreds of comments on Facebook and dozens of emails.

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