Rebecca Rogers

Rebecca Rogers and her two young children.

Meet Rebecca Rogers, a 27-year-old from Yakima. She’s a single mom of two young boys, ages 4 and 8 months.

Her family of three qualifies for the Working Connections Child Care program, a state system that helps low-income families pay for child care so they can continue working or pursuing work. The state pays a subsidy of the cost of care to providers, and parents make a co-payment based on their income. It covers child care for anything job-related — from applications to working hours. It’s a life-saver, Rogers said.

Have there been any challenges in child care for you, and if so, what have they been?

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a challenge, Rogers said.

Before the pandemic, her oldest son was attending child care regularly while Rogers worked as a direct support professional, providing in-home care for adults living with disabilities. But when COVID-19’s impacts reached Yakima, she was laid off. At the time, she was well into her pregnancy with her second son. So she took her now 4-year-old out of care and stayed home until she delivered her second son.

“When it was time to get back in the work area, I was able to go back to her, which I was thankful for,” Rogers said of her Yakima-based, in-home child care provider.

There was a hitch, though: The state was behind in processing paperwork, and because of this her co-payment for child care was going to cost nearly $550.

“I was really worried. I was like, how am I going to do that?” she said. “That’s as much as my rent and with other bills, there’s no way I can afford this amount. So luckily, because of COVID, the state was waiving co-pays for a few months, so I had time to figure stuff out.”

The boys went back to child care while she began working again. Burnt out between caring for high-needs adults during the day and her young kids at night, she took work in an apple warehouse for a while and more recently took a job as a grocery stocker. She also called the state and found out her Working Connections paperwork hadn’t been processed.

“Once they did process it, it went down — a lot,” she said of her co-payment. Today, Rogers is able to send her boys to stable care for $65 a month, making it possible for her to keep working and to support her family.

What’s one question about child care that you would want answered, or one thing that you want to better understand how to navigate?

As questions come up, Rogers said she often asks the woman who runs the child care her children attend for answers.

One thing the provider helped her with was tracking her child care expenses so she could claim them on her taxes, something she didn’t know was possible before.

This tax season, Rogers said, she’s helping a single father file for this tax benefit for his kids, too. She wants more parents to know about this, and to better understand other state and federal options. (We’ll be sharing more about how to do this in future reporting.)

Reach Janelle Retka at jretka@yakimaherald.com or on Twitter: @janelleretka