UPDATE: Since publishing this article, the Oklahoma Department of Human Services has announced that the enrollment freeze for the Child Care Subsidy program will end July 31, 2016. This means the assistance with child care can be approved for eligible families beginning August 1, 2016, in time for the start of the school year and for kids who are attending after-school child care programs. DHS will begin accepting new applications on July 1, but families should not expect for the assistance to begin until August 1. Due to a reduced workforce at DHS, the agency estimates it will take about a month to process and approve the expected flood of new applicants.
Starting June 1, the Department of Human Services put a freeze on the program that helps low-income families in Oklahoma pay for child care. Prior to June 1, low-income families that can't afford quality child care could apply for assistance from OKDHS to make care more affordable. Here's what you need to know about the changes:
- People already enrolled in the program won't be impacted, but OKDHS isn't taking any new applications for their child care subsidy program.
- The eligibility for the child care subsidy depends on the income of the family and how many children need care. The federal government considers a family of five earning $2,370 or less a month under the poverty line. At that income level, a family with three children needing care in Oklahoma's child care subsidy program would pay just $287 a month for care.
- Child Care Aware reports the average cost of full-time care for an infant in Oklahoma is $623 per month and $467 for full-time care of a 4-year-old. With the OKDHS program on hold, thousands of families will have to pay full price for child care regardless of their income.
- An average of 32,336 children in Oklahoma currently receive a subsidy to help provide them with quality child care. The average monthly subsidy is $334.
- Between 22,000 and 26,000 families apply for child care assistance annually in Oklahoma.
- It is unknown when OKDHS will start accepting new applications again.
We understand many Oklahoma families will be financially burdened by these changes and we're devastated to think our readers might not be able to find quality care for their children without the subsidy. Please check out our Child Care Guide for more information on child care providers or call Rainbow Fleet, a non-profit child care referral service for Oklahoma families, at 525-3111, for tips on finding care that fits your family's needs.
[Editor's Note: Stats about subsidy program provided by OKDHS Communications Manager Mark Beutler.]