Children's Shelter: Working poor find affordable child care elusive

Forced to stay home, some parents choose riskier options

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Robin Dickerson stays home to care for his 8-month-old baby daughter while his wife works to keep a roof over their heads.

SAN ANTONIO – Barely able to survive on Rickal Huddleston's certified nursing assistant salary, Dickerson said being a stay-at-home father was a difficult decision.

Dickerson said if he were to go back to working part-time on a highway crew, his entire paycheck would go toward child care for his daughter, Kamira.

But the money isn't what concerns Dickerson the most.

"She'd have to be in some strange place, where we don't know what's going on," he said.

Anais Miracle, spokeswoman for the Children's Shelter, said affordable child care is elusive, especially for the working poor.

"It's really hard, very hard," Huddleston said.

Miracle said the child care issue concerns Children's Shelter officials because if parents are forced to stay home, they might choose riskier options such as cheaper, unlicensed facilities or leaving children with someone who might mistreat or abuse them.

Lewis said some families live in fear that they'll become homeless.

"You've got to stay home with your child and you can't pay your bills, then eventually you'll be evicted," she said.

Couples on limited incomes also may not have transportation for child care or the $23 needed for a birth certificate that's required by child care facilities.

Lewis said many families find themselves caught in a catch-22 because some government programs require that both parents work at least 25 hours a week.

"It's like you work to get child care and you can't work until you have child care. So they're kind of stuck," Lewis said. "You just do a lot of praying and you do a lot of searching around for resources."

Before Kamira was born, her parents met in a homeless shelter.

"They've come a long way in a year's time," said Cathy Lewis, a registered nurse with the Nurse-Family Partnership program at the Children's Shelter that provides needed support for first-time mothers. 

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