At CITC quality, affordable childcare is one more piece in the employment puzzle
Hannah Henderson remembers what it was like for her family to apply for assistance.
“People can be really hesitant to help you,” recalled the 29-year-old, who grew up in Metlakatla, on Annette Island, 15 miles southwest of Ketchikan. “They’re like, ‘Did you do any drugs this year?’ No! I just want to go to school. A lot of people look at you and think, ‘Here’s another one looking for a handout.’”
So her experience approaching the front desk at CITC’s Charlie Anderson Welcome Center was a pleasant surprise. “They’re so cordial!” Hannah described. “I’m a welfare baby; I grew up on food stamps. So it was rather comforting to have people say, ‘Yes, of course we want to help you succeed in life.’”
Hannah could already be considered a success: The first person in her family of nine siblings to graduate from college, she was already working full-time as a nurse at the Alaska Native Medical Center. But Hannah dreamed of being a doctor. She enrolled in a pre-med program at the University of Alaska Anchorage. But with four children — two sets of twins! — she found that she could only handle taking the minimum number of credits needed to be considered an active student.
“A lot of people look at you and think, ‘Here’s another one looking for a handout.’ So it was rather comforting to have people say, ‘Yes, of course we want to help you succeed in life.’”
– Hannah Henderson
At the time, a friend from nursing school was watching her children while Hannah continued working and attended class. Soon, though, her friend had to focus on her own career, and Hannah was left wondering what to do.
“Child care is a huge part of ensuring a single parent or both parents are able to work a forty-hour week, or go to school,” said Donna Shantz, CITC Childcare billing specialist. “Without the kinds of subsidies CITC can provide, since the price of child care is so high, a lot of people would end up staying home and not working. Hannah was in the same situation as a lot of our participants: She wouldn’t have been able to complete her undergraduate studies without child care assistance.”
CITC’s Child Care Assistance program provides financial assistance to Alaska Native and Native American families in need of daycare services for children under the age of 13. In most cases, a partnership with thread Alaska provides participating parents with a list of licensed providers in their zip code that have openings. Parents then choose the provider they prefer, alert CITC ETSD, and the cost of child care with that provider is then subsidized through Child Care Assistance.
“We work with a variety of providers, like Boys and Girls Club, Campfire, Bright Beginnings, and Northern Lights Preschool,” Donna shared. “In those programs, kids are being stimulated, educated. And they’re seeing their parents going to work each day, being role models for their own future.”
The Childcare Assistance program also grants subsidies for special needs children, for children whose parents are completing GED programs, and for the children of individuals who enroll in day treatment programs for substance abuse.
CITC also offers alternative options for child care, depending on a participant’s needs. The Nahtsahda Child Care Center provides quality child care services to enhance program and service delivery for participants using services within CITC’s Nat’uh Service Center.
And the need for quality, affordable childcare also prompted CITC to establish a new Early Head Start Center. “The bottom line is there’s a significant shortage of daycare in our community,” said Connie Wirz, CITC Family Services manager. “With the head start, we want to provide consistent, quality learning and care for these families at a minimal cost.”
While Hannah — in her senior year at UAA — juggles her career with her studies, she’s comforted by the fact that her children are being cared for by a qualified professional caregiver. “I don’t worry about rushing home so somebody else can go off to work,” she said. “I can have a licensed provider watching my children, so I know they’re safe.”
She has also been able to increase the number of credits she’s taking, bringing her closer to her dream of becoming a doctor. “As a nurse, you see things,” she explained. “You think to yourself, I wonder if I could change that for the better? I think about ways I could have a better impact, and that’s what makes me want to get my medical degree.”
Thanks to Child Care Assistance from CITC, the road to that degree became a lot smoother.