Ashley Koontz: Access to Quality Child Care Can Break Cycles of Poverty

Ashley Koontz has practiced as a licensed social worker in Ohio since 2014. From 2014-2020 she was the Drug Court Program Manager for Van Wert County and oversaw the functions of the Common Pleas Drug Court program in Paulding County. While working with adult felony offenders who struggled with drug and alcohol addiction, she saw a need for earlier intervention. In January 2021 she began her journey as the Mental Health Manager for Mercer County Head Start. Ashley resides in Ohio Senate District 12 and Ohio House District 84.


I live in rural Northwest Ohio and have three children ages 5, 3, and 1. They attend a local child care and preschool full time. My husband and I pay $1,404 per month for this service. It is a struggle to find affordable child care, let alone affordable quality child care where professionals are trained to support children’s early learning and healthy development.


My husband and I have good jobs, and still the cost of child care creates a financial hardship for us. Can you imagine the stress, frustration, and disappointment our underprivileged families feel? It should not be this way. Every family and every child should have the opportunity to attend quality child care and preschool programs.


In social work we often talk about the 'cycle.' How can we break the cycle? Currently, we put it back on the family to make those changes. But do they really have access to the tools they need to make the necessary changes to break the cycle? We have systems set up to help the poor, but the working-poor are often overlooked and forgotten about. This group is stuck between working a particular number of hours to keep their public benefits or making too much that their public benefits (such as publicly funded child care) are terminated. Their wage is not enough for them to survive and make ends meet, but they make too much to receive assistance.


How is someone supposed to disengage from that cycle when the system is designed to keep them within the cycle? How is a single mother or father supposed to provide excellent performance to their employer if they must worry about whether their child care provider is truly able to provide a safe, quality environment? Are their children learning when the child care provider is not properly trained and certified in child development? Or are they given an electronic device and told to leave the adult alone?


All these factors lead the child to stay within the very cycle that we express frustrations about. Why not give them a fighting chance to break the cycle? To reach their full potential? Why not invest in the children when they are young? Give them the opportunity to be in a safe, quality child care environment – a place they can learn and grow.


This morning, my 5-year-old said, “Mom, did you know snow and rain are the same thing? Except snow is when the rain is frozen and the rain is when it is melted. And did you know that is called precipitation? It is made when the gas from the sun meets gas in the environment and then we get precipitation." I asked him where he learned about this and he told me school. I want every child to have the opportunity to have this fundamental groundwork knowledge. I want every parent to be able to smile and say, "Wow, I did not know that. Thank you for teaching me something new today."


Let us start laying the groundwork for our future and current workforce instead of creating barriers and expressing our frustrations later. If we know better, we do better. Let us do better. One way to do better is by expanding eligibility for Ohio's Publicly Funded Child Care program to 150% of the Federal Poverty Level in the state budget to help parents stay in the workforce and keep our economy running.

Groundwork Ohio's budget blog series features stories from child care professionals, families, business leaders, and community members on why there's an urgent need in their communities to expand access to quality child care. In the state biennial budget, Ohio legislators have the opportunity to increase eligibility for the state's publicly funded child care program from 130% of the Federal Poverty Level to 150% of the Federal Poverty Level. Read our child care budget fact sheet to learn more about why there is an urgent need to increase access to quality child care. Take action today by contacting your Senator urging their support for expanding eligibility by clicking here.