Marathon County organizations work to help parents afford child care

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MARATHON COUNTY, Wis. (WSAW)-- A new report from the Economic Policy Institute shows child care in Wisconsin costs more per year than in-state public college. Local providers and businesses are looking at ways to raise awareness about the need for quality care that people can afford.

The study reports that the average Wisconsin family could spend more than 18 percent of its income on child care.

Stephanie Daniels, Associate Director of the YMCA, says costs to maintain a child care center have gone up. "Building cost, keeping a building running, water, electricity, that stuff all has gone up in the last couple years," she said.

Daniels says the cost is also about wanting to retain good teachers.

"We want them all to stay with us, and grow their career here, but they also have to make a living and live on a good wage."

For providers, it can be a delicate balance between good teachers and affordable care.

"Definitely it's a balance, because we want high quality teachers but we want families to be happy," Daniels said.

United Way of Marathon County is working with local businesses to understand how they can play a role in solving the child care dilemma. Executive Director and CEO Jeffrey Sargent said they ask, "What do employees see as valuable resources for them for their employers to provide, from the standpoint of being a family-friendly employer."

They formed a group called Baby Business to look at whether businesses can offer care for working parents, and show them how it could attract employees. They hope to help businesses understand why strong childcare is important.

"You're seeing companies look at healthcare. Some companies have brought on on-site health services to benefit their employees. Are there some companies that are willing to look at child care?" Sargent said.

He also mentioned that resources like the Good Start Grant are available to parents who need assistance.

United Way plans to host a movie screening on Oct. 23 to engage the community in the issue.