Strolling Thunder Stories – Parent Asiata Teah: Essential Workers Struggle to Find Affordable Child Care

Providence resident Asiata Teah and her husband are both essential workers, but haven’t been able to afford consistent, high-quality child care for their two-year-old son despite having two incomes. Asiata returned to her work when their son was three months old, and has relied on family and friends to care for him for two and a half years. This support from her inner circle isn’t reliable, and Asiata struggles to maintain a full-time schedule at her job in a group home for adults with developmental disabilities.

“I plan my work schedule around their changing availability, and unfortunately they can’t always follow through. I’ve had to call out of work, I can’t pick up extra shifts, and I’m constantly late for work,” said Asiata. “Although my manager has been accommodating so far, missing out on work means I lose income. It hurts our family financially and is damaging my career to not have consistent child care.”

Asiata’s household income is too high to qualify for Child Care Assistance Payment (CCAP), which would help her pay for a stable, high-quality learning environment for her son. If she was to pay the full price of child care out of pocket, it would be over 60% of the income she brings in, which is far above the level recommended by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)’s affordability standard, which states that child care is only affordable if it costs no more than 7% of a family’s income.

“Prices are rapidly rising for everything from gas to housing to groceries, and it’s increasingly hard to make ends meet,” said Asiata. “If I was to pay for child care out of pocket, the cheapest option would still take up my entire paycheck.”

On top of the pressure of being an essential worker during a pandemic and the stress of an ongoing search for reliable child care she can afford, Asiata is also currently working towards earning her public health administration bachelor’s degree from the University of Rhode Island.

“I just want the opportunity to work to help my community and support my family. In this country, you need a strong educational foundation to live comfortably and pursue your dreams,” said Asiata. “We need affordable options for early childhood education, which will allow parents of young children to work and further their education. We’re free to pursue our dreams if we know that our children are safe in a high-quality learning environment that prepares them for success once they start school.”

Asiata is still seeking a child care spot for her son so she can get to work without worrying about his care. She strongly urges legislators to support policies and funding that help the countless Rhode Island middle class families like hers access affordable, high-quality child care so they can work, regardless of income level.