When New Milford Schools returned to school this fall under the “hybrid” model, it left many working parents in a difficult child-care bind.
Children who would normally be in school five days a week, many of them also in before- and after-school programs, would be home three days a week. Parents who work full time out of the house were faced with difficult decisions. Would they have to change jobs or even stop working to supervise young children who were not old enough to be left home alone? Would they have to pay unanticipated child-care expenses for three days a week, leaving them unable to pay other bills?
Members of the New Milford community realized that while the hybrid model was important for safety during the pandemic, it could have devastating effects on family budgets. The New Milford Youth Agency stepped forward and offered an affordable option for families needing child care on the days their children were not in school, providing care for as little as $5 per hour. But if two children in a family need 15 hours of care, that’s still $150 a week—a big portion of a struggling family’s budget.
United Way of Western Connecticut saw the need for scholarships for hardworking, struggling New Milford families. United Way calls thesefamilies ALICE® (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed), and it has been working to address the needs of this population for the past five years.
Working with area donors, United Way pooled funds to provide a $21,500 grant to the New Milford Youth Agency, so that some children could receive scholarships to attend their program at a lower cost. This helps parents to keep their existing jobs and hours until normal school schedules resume.
The New Milford Youth Agency program also ensures that children are online when they are supposed to be, engaging in virtual learning with their teachers and working on their assignments. This means that students won’t fall through the cracks and fall behind on learning.
Parents have expressed their gratitude for this program, which keeps their children safe and learning while they work to keep their families financially afloat.
One parent who is an essential worker wrote: “This holiday season just like this year has been different. In so many ways, our hearts, our minds and our families have endured a very hard year. We have been blessed to have such a united community, and organization like United Way who provided scholarship funding so our kids could continue attending the New Milford Youth Agency program. Thanks to this funding I have been able to buy more nutritious food for my kids.
Also, my son can attend the program and continue his studies in this new remote learning environment. As a parent of two, 2020 child-care expenses exceeded our living expense and I worried-that I would have to pause my career and college education to stay home with my kids.”
Another said: “During a time of uncertainty and chaos you guys have given us hope. If it weren't for this agency (New Milford Youth Agency) and for United Way I would not be able to work and I would not be able to afford life as it is. We are forever grateful and thankful to you all for such an amazing gift as this!”
A parent who works at a Head Start facility and whose fiancé works at a grocery store wrote, “Knowing that our son is able to continue to receive outstanding child care as well as phenomenal support with hybrid learning due
to receiving the scholarship has helped alleviate some stress for our family. We are so thankful for the support from our community and cannot thank you all enough for everything you do.”