Leaders say East Tennessee is in a child care crisis


KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) – Child care in East Tennessee has been declared in crisis, with Knox County now considered a child care desert.

State data shows that most quality child care facilities currently cost more than a year's worth of in-state tuition at the University of Tennessee. Bert McFadden, CEO of the Tennessee Valley Boys & Girls Clubs, told WVLT News it's a complex issue that's causing problems for families across East Tennessee.

“Families may be forced to say, 'It's just not worth it because of the costs of working and caring for children,'” McFadden said.

Matt Ryerson with the United Way of Greater Knoxville said two-thirds of Knoxville families have both parents working, but still manage to make ends meet at the end of the month.

“Forty percent of our neighbors and friends are making decisions at the end of each month: 'What are we not going to pay? Utilities? Prescriptions? Child care?'” Ryerson says.

McFadden said more parents are choosing to stay home for their children rather than work, which has a huge impact not only on families but also on the economy as a whole. A Tennessee Quality Early Education study estimated that Knoxville is losing $122 million a year in revenue and income.

“It's a domino effect of essential costs. Child care has become as essential as health care or anything else in how families decide to spend their money,” McFadden said.

Parents seeking assistance can apply for Tennessee's Child Care Fee Assistance Program, which allows parents who earn below the 85th percentile of the state's median income to receive a reduction in child care fees based on their income.

The state offers charts to help parents determine if they fall into the 85th percentile, and it also has programs for older children who need supervision outside of school hours.



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