Strolling Thunder Stories – Parent Felicia Powers: Turning Down Higher Pay In Order to Afford Child Care

Woonsocket resident Felicia Powers has a ten-year-old daughter and two-year-old son, and has faced numerous barriers to accessing child care so she can work to support her family as a single parent. 

Although she currently works in human services, Felicia spent years as an essential worker in the nursing home industry. Now that her son is in enrolled in a high-quality child care program that accepts Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) payments, she must also spend time meticulously calculating how much she can make to cover her family’s living expenses while keeping her earnings low enough to remain eligible for the benefits her family currently needs to survive, including child care assistance, rent subsidy, health care benefits, and SNAP benefits. 

“I feel stuck in a system that doesn’t allow me the flexibility to pursue better opportunities to lift my family out of financial struggle,” said Felicia. “If I made just a couple dollars more per hour, I’d lose eligibility for CCAP, and child care would cost 75 percent of my household income. We’d likely also lose additional benefits, and wouldn’t be able to survive.” 

Felicia enjoys working in human services in a nursing home, but would love to attend nursing school and become a Registered Nurse (RN). However, she can’t do that while limited by Rhode Island’s low family income limits for the Child Care Assistance Program. 

Felicia knows other parents facing similar challenges, who have had to turn down opportunities for higher-paying jobs, or even working extra shifts, because the additional income would make them  ineligible for CCAP but they still wouldn’t make enough to afford living expenses and child care. 

“Ultimately, I have to make sure my family has the things we need to feel secure and healthy, such as food on the table and safe housing,” said Felicia. “The way the system is structured, you can’t climb the ladder to raise your family out of poverty. You are forced to leap off the ladder and hope for the best.”

Felicia strongly believes that child care should be affordable and accessible for all families. She encourages Rhode Island legislators to ensure that family income limits are raised so more families can get help and families that are receiving help can earn more money and advance their careers.