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How Do Poor Moms Afford Child Care?

Los Angeles County officials plan to conduct a survey to gain a comprehensive view of working parents’ child-care needs.

While families of means can afford quality child care, KARIMA A. HAYNES asked three mothers who are making the transition from welfare to work how they are paying for child care while working at low-paying jobs or receiving public assistance.

MARIBEL AVILA, 20, of Glendale

I have two girls and I have been married for four years. I was getting Aid to Families with Dependent Children.

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I moved to Glendale in December 1997 and I was looking for a job at the time. I found out about the Verdugo Employment Program and I got into GAIN’s (Greater Avenues for Independence) job-training program. When I didn’t have child care, I told them my problem, and they told me they could cover it.

After the job-training program, I started at Union Adjustment Co. in Burbank in February. It is a collection agency. I got a baby sitter and paid her $120 a week. . . . Then GAIN advised me to take them to someone with a license so I could get a co-pay for child care.

I am still waiting for a response. I pay $800 a month for both of my daughters. I make about $900 a month after the tax is taken out.

I only have $100 left over to pay the bills. If GAIN could pay all or even half, that would be great. I just don’t know yet.

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As long as GAIN helps us with child care, the salary is OK. Once we get the experience, we will get higher salaries and be able to pay for child care. I just want to work for a while to get a good salary so I can pay [for quality care].

JUNE MANN, 27, of Palmdale

When I separated from my husband two years ago, I wasn’t working or going to school. I was home with my kids because there was no baby sitter who wanted to watch them for free. My mom and my sister helped out a little bit.

It was a scary feeling: How am I going to get a job and go to school and not have child care? I didn’t want to have to work a minimum-wage job for the rest of my life with no education.

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I am on AFDC right now. I am going to Antelope Valley College to get an associate degree in sociology. I plan to transfer to Cal State Northridge. In August, I will start Job Club with the GAIN program until school starts again. It teaches you resume writing, interviewing and helps you to find jobs that are not listed in the newspaper.

When I start Job Club, it will run from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. My children will be going to my sister’s house, and GAIN will pay her $700 a month. When I go back to school, they will stay at my sister’s and GAIN will [continue to] pay. I’m glad my sister can take care of them. They are with their aunt and they are not being abused or neglected.

The majority of women who live in my apartment complex are single mothers on welfare. I tell them that they don’t know how long welfare is going to last. You can’t expect to stay home everyday and not work and expect to live.

CYNTHIA FLORES, 32, of Lancaster

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My dream child-care situation is to have someone dependable and flexible who is good with kids. It would be someone who would help them with their homework, be at home when they get home from school and cook dinner for them--kind of like a step-in mom.

But in reality I can’t have that. My sister baby-sits for me. I don’t have a set amount that I pay her. I just give her money--$50, $60, $70 every two weeks. I have to make sure I pay her to help her out. I make about $350 every two weeks. I’m a cashier at an AM/PM minimarket.

GAIN is going to help me with my child care. They will make payment directly to my provider. It is a little hard waiting for the paperwork to go through. I tell my sister to bear with me.

If I didn’t have my sister to baby-sit for me, I would have to quit my job and find one where I could have set hours. Sometimes I work 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. or 2 to 10 p.m. and it changes from week to week. And my kids go to year-round school. When they go to their friends’ houses, that saves me [money].

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I get AFDC. I can’t wait for the day when I am off welfare. I appreciate the help they are giving me, but it’s not for you to live off of.


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