Mississippi changes policy that advocates say was a roadblock to child care assistance for single parents

Published: May. 15, 2023 at 7:18 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - There’s a change, effective May 15, that will make it easier for single parents who need help from the state on paying for child care.

”One easy way to think of this as there was a huge, huge amount of red tape that Mississippi put on the child care program for absolutely no reason,” explained Matt Williams, Mississippi Low Income Child Care Initiative Research Director. “And it’s gone now.”

Jamese Wiley is a single mom who learned first-hand how the need to cooperate with child support enforcement was a roadblock for becoming eligible for child care assistance.

“It was a challenge,” noted Wiley. “Not only because my relationships with the fathers were severed, but also because of the process in itself. It was such a challenge to get in the door.”

The Mississippi Low Income Child Care Initiative has pushed for years for the process to change.

“It was really kind of a dual application process,” said MLICCI Founder/ Executive Director Carol Burnett. “And that’s where some of the problems arose, even when a single mom was trying to comply because the communication between the two divisions didn’t always go as it needed to. And when that didn’t occur, a mom’s approval for the childcare program would be jeopardized.”

For Wiley, it made already complicated relationships with her children’s fathers more stressful.

“We had our own internal kind of agreement,” described the single mom of six. “And so the state wouldn’t take that, like, there was no way for me to be like, ‘Hey, we’re doing this. So can you just’...they wouldn’t do it.”

This change doesn’t originate from the legislature but rather an internal decision at DHS.

“Looking at the data listening to those that are served by this program, we determined that the policy...it wasn’t really doing anything other than hurting the mothers and their children,” said Chad Allgood, MDHS Division of Early Childhood Care and Development Director.

Beyond helping more single parents afford child care, advocates say it opens the door to another important outcome of allowing more parents the flexibility to be part of the workforce.>

DHS will keep enforcing child support, but it will no longer be a requirement for this child care program.

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