The Canadian Record (Canadian, Tex.), Vol. 118, No. 16, Ed. 1 Thursday, April 17, 2008 Page: 5 of 36
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THE CANADIAN RECORD
THURSDAY 1 "7 APRIL ZOOS
... and who does it really hurt?
THE REALIZATION THAT THE YMCA's licensed child care pro-
grams were closing finally seemed to take hold this week, as
parents, child caregivers and employers all over Canadian be-
gan measuring the full impact of that decision.
"Nobody's been inconvenienced yet," said one Y board mem-
ber, remarking 011 what had so far been a muted reaction to the
announcement—made last month—that the program would be
discontinued on June 1.
This week, the "inconvenience" became more apparent.
According to YMCA Director Lael Kirk-
land, 136 kids are enrolled in the Y's day care
and after-school programs, attending either
full- or part-time. Of those, about 60 percent
come from working families.
Any vacancies at Rachel's Little House—
Canadian's only other licensed day care pro-
gram—were quickly filled, and working par-
ents and their employers, considering their
options, found few.
Potentially the hardest hit businesses were the service-re-
lated ones, like restaurants, whose employees are generally
the lowest paid, and often work long hours or second jobs to pay
their bills. Both Tamra Scroggins, owner of Our Fillin Station,
and Milton Cooke, owner of the Cattle Exchange, said their al-
ready depleted work force would be reduced even further by the
Scroggins understood the rationale behind the decision, hav-
ng wrestled with the day care program's problems when she
was on the board two years ago, but
she disagreed with its abruptness.
"I think t would have been helpful
f there had been more time or more
nvestigation nto alternatives," she
Several of her employees will be
affected by the decision, she said. Two of them—both part-time
night workers—lost both their jobs at the day care center, and
their own children's day care. "I have pretty much four full-time
openings available right now," Scroggins said. "We are so un-
derstaffed. It is the worst it's ever been."
Compounding the employee shortage, she said, are the twin
issues of a booming oil and gas industry that pays top dollar to
ts employees, and a shortage of low- to moderate- income hous-
ing options in the inflated real es-
tate market. "We've been open for
practically seven years, and this s
the worst year for employees ever,"
Scroggins said. "I could find people if
there was housing, because there are
people who want to come here...."
The day care situation will affect many of the same people.
"The way child care is even now," she said, "it's hard for a mini
mum wage worker to even afford....You practically work just to
pay for daycare."
Milton Cooke echoed those concerns, saying he had two em-
ployees who will be affected mmediately, and two more who
have already given notice that they will be unable to work in the
fall because they have no child care. Cooke believes the Y day
care facility could be restructured to meet regulations, and has
approached the boards of both day care facilities with a remod-
eling plan and a proposal that they work in partnership with
So far, he said, nobody seems interested in talking.
Several of Canadian's largest employers will also be affect-
ed by the Y closing. Hemphill County Hospital administrator
Robert Ezzell polled his staff Monday, and found two employees
looking for day care for their children. "Two more are pregnant,
and will be affected in the future," he said.
Ezzell admitted it's not a new problem for the hospital. Sev-
eral years ago, he and his board took the bull by the horn and
converted one room to a modified
nursery to accommodate several new
mothers on the staff. "The mothers
could bring in their own babysitters
and for a limited time have them here
so they could return to work," he said.
"We had about six babies born with in
about three months. That was a crip-
pling situation for us, and we wanted those mothers to be able to
come back to work as soon as possible."
The Little House's building plans include provisions for in-
fant care, said Ezzell, who also serves on that facility's board.
CISD Superintendent Frank Belcher admits that since he's
been here, he has on occasion lost employees with children who
struggled to find babysitters. "We've had other employees who
I've been made aware of," he said, "who had to hunt and scrape
and scratch to find somebody."
Faced with several staff vacancies that
he is attempting to fill, Belcher said both
the day care and housing shortages pres-
ent problems. "Day care is an issue," he said.
"Housing is probably the biggest issue."
Belcher is also concerned with the loss
of early childhood education the Y daycare's
closing represents. "It's important prepara-
tion for school," he said, "because if the par-
ents work, it provides emotional stab ty. It's important to have
kids grow up in a loving, caring environment, where they social-
ize with other kids."
The school district this week approved implementation of
a pre-Kindergarten program for all 4-year-olds—a move that
was prodded along by the day care shortage, and by board mem-
bers who felt that kind of early education would be valuable to
students and parents alike. That decision will alleviate some
of the impact of the Y's decision, but classes are only half-days,
leaving working parents with only half an answer to their prob-
Amanda Phillips is a single mom whose 5-year-old daughter
Ashlyn accompanies her to the YMCA day care center where
she works. Double affected by the loss of her job and her daugh-
ter's day care program, she speaks for many working parents
when she says, "We don't know what we're doing."
Since the announcement was made, Phillips said, "I've had
parents begging me to watch their kids or to open a day care or
something. These are working parents. They're married, two
parents working, and they need the income. They really don't
know what they're going to do."
Phillips works from 8 a.m. to 4 or 6 p.m. at the YMCA, and
then goes to a second job at Our Fillin' Station, where she works
four nights a week. Some nights, she gets home around 9:30.
Others, she works until 1 o'clock the
next morning. She relies on a cob-
bled-together infrastructure of rela-
tives and friends who look after Ash-
lyn while she's working, but knows
her house of cards has fallen with the
Y day care clos ing.
As the sole provider for her daugh-
ter, Phillips admits the going is tough. "I have as many bills as
married couples do," she said. "I could not just work at the Y, be-
cause I may make enough to pay two bills, or three at the most.
I don't make enough to cover everything."
The Y job was a godsend for her. "I want to see my kid. It's
hard for me to leave her with just anybody," she said. "The day
I found out about the Y shutting down, I was upset and crying,
because none of these kids have anywhere else to go."
attend each day or not.
Waters said when he joined the Y board, the day care pro-
gram was not operated on a pre-pay basis, and there were thou-
sands of dollars in unpaid fees on the books. The decision was
made to expect payment in advance for child care services,
which gradually improved the financial picture.
Even so, the day care program has been a money loser. The
day care program chronically hemorrhages money, operating at
a $60,000 deficit in 2007. "That was the only program that was
losing us money," Kirkland said.
Contributions to the YMCA have also dropped off in the last
few years, despite what is by most measures a strong local econ-
omy. Waters credited that decline to two things:
First, the general perception that, because the Y received a
generous endowment from the F irst Presbyterian Church, it
no longer needed contributions to sustain its programs. The en-
dowment will be a valuable means of support in the long run, he
noted, affirming the board's gratitude for the gift, but its imme-
diate benefits are minimal.
Second, the oft-expressed feeling of many members that all
other activities at the Y had taken a back seat to the daycare
program's overwhelming demands. "I can walk through that fa-
cility," Waters said, "and point to things and say the reason this
isn't better is child care...the reason that isn't better is child care.
For the last year and half that I've been on the board, that has
been the focus of all of the board's money and time."
Both Waters and McPherson said the board agreed that Y
programs should pay for themselves, rather than perpetual-
ly depending on donations or fundraisers to keep them. "We
can continue to grovel," Waters said. "I think we got to a point
where even groveling wasn't going to get anywhere. Member-
ship drives and fundraisers...that's a temporary fix. The direc-
tion we're headed now is not a temporary fix."
"We didn't want to do away with day care," said McPherson.
"That wasn't our objective at all. It was to keep the YMCA doors
"I've had nothing but positive responses," Waters said. "No-
where, except irt last week's newspaper have I had anyone be
critical. What I have heard is, 'We're excited you're not going to
spend all your money and time on the child care.'"
Waters referred to one of two letters to the editor—both
critical of the daycare closing—in which the writer referred to
programs that her daughter enjoyed, but that no longer exist.
"They were near and dear to her heart," McPherson said, "as
they were to me and my daughter. But I would say that 90 to 95
percent of the programs she named...are programs that were
sacrificed to all-day child care."
In place of its licensed day care and afterschool programs,
the board is planning to offer a nine-week summer day camp
to 5-13 year olds starting June 1st. There will be 25 firm spots
available by reservation in that program, and five set aside for
drop-ins. The day camp will span each day of the week from 8
a.m. to 6 p.m., said Kirkland. "We can still go swimming, and of-
fer more activities," she said. "We can do a lot more now that we
won't be under licensing."
In addition, the Y will offer a two-day-a-week mother's day
out program starting in August. That program will be available
for 3- and 4-year-olds from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Twenty-five slots will
be available for reservation, and five for drop ins.
Those changes will allow the Y to reduce its staff to three
full-time and one part-time caregiver. Kirkland said other ad-
ditions being considered nclude a child-watch program for par-
ents to leave their kids while they work out, and more programs
nvolving senior citizens.
"Everything we've talked about," Waters said, "depends
entirely on the same economics that every other employer has.
If we set up these programs and can't staff them, then they're
not going to happen. The key is that the Y as a community cen-
ter is hopefully still here, and it's not a locked building—a huge
locked building...that ust sits until it falls apart, and then you
"The Y s a quality of life facii i ty," he said* "It's a piece of the
life of the community, and you can only lose so many of your com-
munity lifelines before your community dies."
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Brown, Laurie Ezzell. The Canadian Record (Canadian, Tex.), Vol. 118, No. 16, Ed. 1 Thursday, April 17, 2008, newspaper, April 17, 2008; Canadian, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth252700/m1/5/: accessed August 19, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Hemphill County Library.