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Child care advocates expect big changes in legislative session

Child care to get attention from lawmakers

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A key child care advocate told News 8 there is bipartisan support for expanding eligibility for some child care programs in the upcoming legislative session.

In an interview for All INdiana Politics, Sam Snideman, the United Way of Central Indiana’s vice president of government relations, said child care programs often cost Indiana parents more than sending their children to an in-state, four-year college or university. This puts child care out of reach for many working families. At the same time, he said attracting and retaining child care workers is one of the biggest obstacles Indiana’s child care system faces. He said the average child care worker in this state makes less than $13 per hour, less than half that of an elementary school teacher, and also less than they could make working at a store or a fast-food restaurant

“People think you’re playing with kids, but the reality is, you have educational activities, you have emotional support that is demanded,” Snideman said. “Often, you have children with behavioral or psychological needs, and some of those manifest themselves in physical ways.”

Snideman was one of several people who testified before a legislative study committee in late summer and early fall about the child care system’s needs. In October, the committee published a list of recommended legislative actions for lawmakers to take during the 2024 session. They include making child care workers eligible for public subsidies under the Child Care Development Fund and On My Way Pre-K, and making child care credentials a tuition-free option under the Workforce Ready Grant.

Snideman said those actions might encourage some who left the child care profession to rejoin it. The committee also recommended piloting child care microcenters, which involve small, mixed-age groups of children cared for at a non-residential facility, such as a small or medium-sized business. Snideman said this could be an economical way for working parents to find child care at or near their workplace.

Snideman said the study committee adopted its recommendations unanimously, so there’s a good chance of some sort of legislative action on child care this session. He said his organization and others involved with child care will focus on ensuring those recommendations pass the General Assembly.

All INdiana Politics airs at 9:30 a.m. Sunday on WISH-TV.