Local YMCA announces changes for child care programs

Published: Dec. 10, 2019 at 8:32 PM CST
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Some foster kids may lose access to before- and after-school care through the YMCA. Starting in January, Springfield's YMCA will no longer accept payments from the state to pay for those programs.

There are 29 Springfield schools where parents can use the Child Care Subsidy Program to pay for the YMCA's before- and after-school care. As of January 1st, the Ozarks Regional YMCA won't accept that payment at St. Agnes Elementary, McBride Elementary, Field Elementary and others, adding up to ten schools.

For Marc Cerce, an adoptive father of five, recently got a letter from the Ozarks Regional YMCA, notifying him of the change.

"When I looked at this, I had to say, 'This is not okay for our family,'" said Marc Cerce.

Kelley Keim, Director of School Age Services at the YMCA in Springfield, said the association did not take the change lightly.

"We have talked about this decision for months," Keim said.

The Child Care Subsidy Program is overseen by the Missouri Department of Social Services. Keim said the state has pushed on more regulations in recent years such as training videos and fingerprinting for staff, now tablets and internet for registration. All those changes are driving up costs.

"We want to offer care to any child who might need it but it is becoming increasingly difficult," Keim said.

Keim says the 10 schools losing YMCA programs were chosen for a reason: they have very few kids actually using it. In fact, she says only 37 of the 1100 families the YMCA serves will be affected. Cerce's is one of them.

"The problem is when some services and systems don't communicate well, the people that need the services get hurt," Cerce said.

Both Cerce and Keim fear this issue could spread throughout the state, as more child care providers have to make tough choices about what payments to accept and what programs to keep.

"It sounds like the Ozarks Regional YMCA might have been the first to really move forward with letters and things like that," Keim said.

Keim said the YMCA is trying to offer financial help to families that might not be able to afford child care without the state's funding. That help would come from donors.

Cerce said he has been talking with the association about assistance, but worries for other families who might also struggle through the change.

"If this is going to go statewide, there's a whole lot of families that are going to be affected," said Cerce.

Keim said she's talked to other organizations who are unsure how to handle the situation. She said the Ozarks Regional YMCA could start accepting the subsidy payment again if there are more children who need it.

Cerce is hoping the state and the YMCA will resolve the issue before it the changes roll out at the start of the year.

The Ozarks Regional YMCA will still accept the state subsidy at 19 other schools aside from Disney, Field, Gray, Greenwood, Immaculate Conception, McBride, Sequiota, St. Agnes, St. Elizabeth and Wilder.

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