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Child care subsidy programs are showing benefits but not meeting all families in need


 Despite its low rankings in child wellbeing, New Mexico has led the country in making child care more affordable and accessible to families.

It waives child care copays for those getting state subsidies. It also ensures more families can receive vouchers to cover the full cost of care and have a choice of providers.

However, a recent study found that some families still struggle to find care that meets their needs.

Researchers from the Cradle to Career Policy Institute spoke with 35 families, all of who had complex needs such as unstable housing or being referred to the program through child protective services.

Hailey Heinz, deputy director of the institute, said the state program can be transformational because it gives families some economic freedom since child care is often their second largest expense after housing.

But Heinz said there are still some issues of access, especially for parents or guardians who work non-traditional hours.

“We talked to a lot of families who were using the child care subsidy, but it was only covering part of their work day and they still had a lot of out of pocket costs. Because they were paying family members or friends to come pick their kids up or drop them off because their work schedules were such that the sort of typical child care center hours didn’t work very well for them” Heinz said.

Heinz said it’s also a workforce issue. There are not enough child care slots to meet the need for all the families who require care and the state needs to make sure that it's addressing some of the historical inequities faced by these professionals.

Part of making sure that we are attracting the workforce we need is going to be addressing compensation, addressing working conditions, ensuring that these are great jobs” Heinz siad.

Heinz said that it's crucial for these providers to be given resources and training in order to feel supported and that the state is beginning to make some effort to do that.

This coverage is made possible by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and KUNM listeners. 

Taylor is a reporter with our Poverty and Public Health project. She is a lover of books and a proud dog mom. She's been published in Albuquerque The Magazine several times and enjoys writing about politics and travel.