Finding the Starting Point from Welfare to Work

Billie Osborne Fears- ....Here, you see? Sixty slots, all of them filled

DCB- Billie Osborne Fears is scanning through a database of local day care providers. She's Executive Director of Starting Point a local agency that takes the pulse of child care in Northeast Ohio --- both in terms of what exists and what is needed.

BOF- Our challenge in Cuyahoga county is having enough childcare. Because of welfare reform, most of our childcare slots...are filled. We're at an 85% utilization...and we consider that as full, because you need 15% because babies are born every day...and people are entering into the workforce. And they're not necessarily low-income families, because we serve all families regardless of income.

DCB- Starting Point is part of a statewide network...that matches families with child care providers....everything from upper crust nannies Head Start groups based in church basements. The agency tracks where services are located....the level of staff expertise...and activities offered and capacities. The clear shortage of local day care possibilities has spawned a training program that aims to fill the gap.

Sound: [Training Class] ... "What is first Aid?"

Pam Hawkins- We train individuals who want to become home providers

DCB- Pam Hawkins is the Child Care Director at Applewood Centers. And her agency offers training for welfare recipients who want to work toward self-sufficiency by providing childcare services for local children. Once a person completes the program, they will have state certification to open their homes to children shut out of overcrowded day care centers.

PH- It's a way of easing that load, because where, in a center, you've got to have the staff, you've got to have the people trained.... A home provider can be trained, they can care for up to six kids per shift, depending on square footage and some other regulations... and they can care for kids on different shifts....and it allows more accessibility to care --- It's usually in the neighborhood, it might be a neighbor, it might be somebody who's around the corner, so the child can still walk home to this home provider and be around the corner from their house.

DCB- ...and they learn a lot about the business world during the course of 30 hours of certification training.

PM- We teach them home safety, how to do billing, we teach them small business and taxes, we teach them nutrition and food safety, we teach communicable disease, a basic first aid, child abuse and neglect....and parent-provider relationships, which is how to interact with your parents and draw parents in. We do six hours of child growth and development, which goes over what you would be able to expect a child to do, and the kind of activities you want to do with the children.

DCB- Applewood Centers has been running this welfare-to-work program for a year, now and they've had many applicants. Many people on public assistance are facing a state-mandated October 1st benefit cut-off deadline, unless they can prove they have entered the work force or at least are in some form of job training. Pam Hawkins says that some applicants to her program have been surprised at its intensity.

PH- We've had a number of people come into class thinking this would be a good way to meet their work requirement...get their educational requirement out of the way... and , you know, I'll just babysit for some kids. And we make it very clear to them in class and in the process that this is not just babysitting, because you are required to plan a daily schedule and do activities with the kids everyday. And the county will come out and monitor and if you're on the USDA food program, so will your sponsor. So, you're not just gonna get out there and do this and be left on your own.

DCB- Rebekah Dorman, an Applewood Centers executive, says explaining the concept that this is much more than babysitting is a challenge

Rebekah Dorman- ...especially if someone has never had a job before...and doesn't understand what the world of work is like. It's a huge leap to go from being on public assistance to being, not only working, but running your own business. It's a challenge for the folks to do it, it's a challenge for us to communicate to them what does this mean and give them the proper training and support to be able to be successful.

DCB- Starting Point's Billie Osborne Fears says that Cuyahoga County has issued another challenge, by forecasting how many new daycare providers are needed.

BOF- a thousand new, certified family childcare homes by June 30th.

DCB- Another tough deadline. And one that is rapidly approaching

Fears- Yes, it is something that is very overwhelming to think about, but when you look at what could happen to families as of October 1st, we have to do everything we can possibly do to meet that goal or else, families will not have a place to leave their children.

Sound: training session

DCB- A recent survey indicates that they've got their work cut out for them. The statewide study ranked Cuyahoga 82nd out of Ohio's 88 counties in terms of successfully moving people from welfare to work. Applewood Centers training program is hoping to chip away at that statistic with their home child care program. They've trained over a hundred people in the last year. But so far, only between 10 and 15 have gone completely through the process. Small steps... but steps in the direction of achieving self-sufficiency for some...while providing the daycare to make it easier for others to enter the world of work.

For Infohio, I'm David C. Barnett in Cleveland.

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