Childcare: One of the most significant challenges for black families

Childcare is out of reach for most low-wage workers. Families with more than one child face an even larger burden.



ST. PETERSBURG – Tabrisha Ruby, center director of the YWCA Child Development Center in St. Pete, understands what it’s like being a single parent and the challenges that arise from it. With a child of her own, she knows the struggles of millions of parents trying to raise their children.

The primary challenge faced by black parents, according to Ruby, is the high cost of childcare, which is comparable to a mortgage. For example, the cost of daycare at YWCA St. Pete is $259 a week. There are other centers in the area that charge upwards of $310 a week.

Imagine having four or five kids?

“When my son was an infant, he was able to stay with my aunt,” said Ruby, who she paid a small fee.

Childcare cost at the YWCA starts at $259 for an infant, $234 for a toddler, $187 for a three-year-old and $170 or $167 for a four-year-old.

The amount changes if the family receives help from the Voluntary Prekindergarten Education Program (VPK) and the Early Learning Coalition of Pinellas (ELC).

“ELC pays that difference, that’s why you have three hours of free childcare if your child is on VPK,” Ruby said. “If you want your child to be in an educational setting, you can bring them during the VPK hours, which for us right now is 9-12 p.m.”

Ruby considers it necessary to rebuild the donor base of local centers. That action would contribute to stopping them from raising tuition. In early 2017, the YWCA made a desperate plea to the community for $50,000 since they were unable to make payroll.

“We can still offer high-quality childcare to the children and keep our tuition at a low cost,” Ruby said.

With such absorbent amounts, parents are resulting to having a friend or family member care for their children. Without proper teaching tools or a specialized curriculum, some children enter kindergarten unprepared and unable to thrive in a structured environment, leading to behavioral issues.

“I know that a lot of times with African-American children, there’s not a lot of time spent on reading to them every night and sitting down and practicing writing,” Ruby said. “Whether it’s because the parents didn’t have it themselves or the parents work two or three jobs to make ends meet and there’s no one in the home that has time to sit down and do those things with you.”

There is a significant number of African-American students struggling with literacy and comprehension. With their structured, educational programs, the YWCA aims to bring these struggling children up to grade level.


“That’s why I would like to put it out to the community, especially those on the south side. VPK is where you’re learning those skills to get you ready for kindergarten,” Ruby said, explaining that these students learn to count, recognize numbers and learn the alphabet.

“The earlier you can start teaching those ABCs and 123s, the better for the kids.”

Ruby plans to add afterschool programs in the near future. These programs will allow children to get extra help with literacy and other skills needed at the elementary level.

“Early childhood is the most crucial point in life. The experiences that you have as a young child ends up building who you are as an adult,” she averred.

Ruby warns against summer learning loss. It is imperative for the child to continue learning during the summer. Unfortunately, black children are at a greater risk of sliding back during the two months school is out.

For Yvonne Ulmer, president & CEO of YWCA Tampa Bay, health inequalities along with the lack of affordable childcare affect black mothers more compared with other races. Many lower income black women do not get the same access to health, nutrition and early pregnancy information.

“The biggest challenge for us is to bring that information to the south side and to let them know what’s available at either affordable [rates] or free of charge,” said Ulmer, who wants everyone to know that the YMCA provides the same quality treatment, information and education to everyone, no matter their race or socio-economic status.

This story is part of a 50-article series honoring black women in the Tampa Bay area.  

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