Cuts To DHS Could Force Oklahoma Daycares To Close

Thursday, May 26th 2016, 7:20 pm
By: News On 6

The Department of Human Services is cutting back on childcare assistance and that could force some small daycares to close.

The cuts won't affect parents currently getting assistance, but it will affect new applicants.

DHS says 2,000 families apply for child care assistance in Oklahoma every month – meaning, as of June 1, thousands of families across the state could go without it.

Ashley Kelley is a mom to a 3-year-old and gets DHS assistance to keep him in daycare five days a week. Without that care, she would have to make some major changes.

“A lot of families are going to hurt,” Kelley said. “I'd have to quit my job and stay at home with him."

Jeana Farrar owns the Cleveland Kiddie Corral and is one of four licensed DHS daycares in Pawnee County. 80 percent of her kids are on DHS assistance.

But the cuts won't just affect rural childcare - there are 259 DHS licensed child care facilities in Tulsa County alone.

"If this is a long-term thing, there's not going to be daycares. Daycares cannot sustain themselves without this subsidy. So, people are going to be without daycare,” Farrar said.

Meaning smaller daycares and facilities in low-income areas could end up shutting down.

Farrar said, "It really came as a shock to me because so many people are in need of it."

With the current budget crisis, DHS says there just isn't enough money to continue accepting families.

Communications director Sheree Powell said the freeze is a major concern for the department.

"Either families won't be able to work or they will leave their kids in unsafe environments with caregivers who are not qualified, and we're concerned that could lead to more cases of child abuse and neglect," she said.

Powell said depending on the legislature, it could be months before the program can start re-enrolling again - something Kelley said is very scary for parents just trying to do the best.

DHS says if a parents' coverage lapses during the freeze they may not be able to reapply.

Parents have until June 1 to submit applications before the freeze begins.