GLEN DALE - Single mother Kristin Roskelly of Marshall County says her 2-year-old daughter already can count to 20, and she credits the efforts of child care providers who teach her daughter each day while she works.
Now potential cuts in subsidies for child care could cause financially strapped parents in West Virginia to pay more for the care of their children when they work. And some say these higher costs could force them to stay home with their children, give up their jobs and not contribute to the tax base of the state.
The issue was addressed during a Child Care in West Virginia Forum on Friday at the Glen Dale United Methodist Child Development Center. Parents and child care providers voiced their concerns to state Senate President Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall.
West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources officials announced in June that the ceiling for child care subsidy eligibility would be reduced from 185 percent of federal poverty level to 150 percent as of Jan. 1. But Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin in late December postponed the proposed changes, pending further review.
Roskelly said her costs for child care have doubled in the past year.
She believes "everyone should pay something" for their child care. But she also said if the costs rise, more parents will choose to stay home to take care of their children. They will forgo their paying jobs and won't be contributing to the tax base in the state, she added.
"What they doubled ... that takes away from what I can give my kids," Roskelly said. "I've always told my kids when we go out, 'I'll never deny you a book, but you can't get toys. Toys are for Christmas and birthdays.' Now I've quit taking them to the store because I can't afford the extras for them."
She said she strongly supports reductions in government spending but added that most mothers now have to work to make ends meet.
"Surely there has to be some other source of funding that can be cut other than that for our children," Roskelly said.
Kessler told those present the Legislature will focus this year on ending child poverty, and he said all children have an equal right to health, education and opportunities.
"I can assure you I will do all I can to make sure our kids are taken care of. ... " he said. "If we can attack issues early, we can prevent a lot of issues we see down the road."
Many children in the state aren't finishing high school - and this leads to drug abuse and prison overcrowding problems, Kessler continued. These problems are costing West Virginia a significant amount of its budget, he added.
"Wouldn't it be easier to make sure kids don't get there in the first place?" he asked.