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Parents struggle with child care costs amid rising inflation

Early Learning Coalition of Palm Beach County provides resources to families in need
Posted at 6:00 AM, May 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-18 14:25:42-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — As families struggle to keep up with inflation, along with rental and mortgage increases, hundreds of parents are also worried about being able to afford child care.

LaTasha Arnold is a hairdresser and the owner of Iron Hair Maiden at Sola Salon Studios in West Palm Beach.

She's also a single mother of two. Her youngest child is 6-year-old Zelia Arnold.

While her business gives her flexibility, when the school year ends, she'll have the seemingly impossible task of finding child care.

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LaTasha Arnold, single mom
LaTasha Arnold explains the difficulty of balancing her budget while raising her daughter.

"Finding child care and or work that pays enough for child care and our living costs," Arnold said.

She said being a single mom is difficult.

"I've had programs go, 'I don't know how you're doing it.' I'm like, 'I literally don't know how I'm doing it either,'" Arnold said. "You learn to budget. You learn to prioritize bills. This month it's going to be this bill, next month's it's that bill."

She said summer camp is not an option for her family.

"I've already tried contacting them to see if they would work something out, so that's not in the plans right now," Arnold said. "They can't lower the cost or do a payment plan."

Cost of nine-week summer camp in Palm Beach County totals $1,548
The cost of a nine-week summer camp in Palm Beach County costs more than $1,500.

The cost of a nine-week summer camp totals $1,548.

So, she reached out to the Early Learning Coalition of Palm Beach County (ELC) for help.

"We have a team of experts who know all about our programs and services," Rachel Mondesir, Community Engagement Manager for the Early Learning Coalition, said. "They're also able to access a database that has all of the legally operating child care programs in Palm Beach County, and through that based on her family's specific needs we'll be able to determine what’s the best fit for her."

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According to Arnold, the organization is reviewing her application and she was put on a waitlist.

"She (a staff member) said several hundred, maybe even a thousand at this point," Arnold said.

Rachel Mondesir, community engagement manager for Early Learning Coalition
Rachel Mondesir with the Early Learning Coalition of Palm Beach County says a variety of programs are available to families based on specific needs.

ELC explained they can provide scholarships to families who need help paying for child care.

"The Early Learning Coalition is actively enrolling children and plans to continue for the foreseeable future. We are currently working with 800 hundred applicant families, to determine their eligibility for scholarships. Our goal is to serve as many families as possible so they can attend quality programs in our communities," said Erin Gallagher, Vice President of Communications and Planning, Early Learning Coalition of Palm Beach County.

If there's a waitlist, the Coalition will assist families in the order they applied and by priority. Children five and under are a priority for scholarships in Palm Beach County.

Cora Wilkins is a single mom of four, her youngest child is 3-year-old Jenesis. She said she's grateful for the help she's receiving through ELC.

"We have the extra help with the day care, so we can have internet for our house," Wilkins said. "We can get a couple of things done. It just gives you a little more breathing room."

Cora Wilkins, single mom of four
Cora Wilkins is among the mothers who is receiving help through the Early Learning Coalition of Palm Beach County.

Breathing room seems to be shrinking for so many families, including Arnolds.

"The other day I went to get cheap hot dogs. They were $5 for a pack of hot dogs — the gross, cheap ones — and I was like, 'OK, it's really hitting us hard,'" Arnold said.

She's also taking a big hit with the cost of her tools like gloves.

"These used to be $15 a box, and you only get 100 pairs. They are now $25," Arnold said.

More money, she worries, is simply going down the drain.

"Even finding someone privately to care, it's still expensive," Arnold said. "I just don't have $800 to spare a month."

The Early Learning Coalition provides scholarships, Early Head Start and Voluntary Pre-K options, along with services that support children and families. Eligibility for certain programs varies by income and family needs. The first step to receiving help is to call the Child Care Resource and Referral line at 561-514-3300. Families can also apply for scholarships on the Family Portal at www.elcpalmbeach.org.

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