Category: Latest News

42 Percent Of Households In Austin Are Struggling To Pay Their Bills, Report Says

A new report says a third of households in Travis County struggle to make ends meet; in Austin, that number was higher, at 42 percent. Travis County’s cost of living was significantly higher than the statewide average, according to the analysis by United Way. The snapshot found it costs nearly $66,000 to raise a family of four in Travis County, compared to the statewide average of $53,000 a year. The study’s author, Stephanie Hoopes, says the study found an overall disparity in costs of living and wages across the state – despite low unemployment numbers in Texas. “In all these places, we’re finding a mismatch between that basic cost of living and what wages in that area pay,” she said. Hoopes says it’s the first time the study has been rolled out in Texas, and that it has given insight to 18 other states into the number of people under the federal poverty limit (FPL) – but also highlight the number of workers with low wages and little to no savings. Stephanie O’Banion, president and CEO of United Way Central Texas, says she hopes the study can increase and inform affordability-minded policy in the region. “[These people are] basically one kind of emergency away from falling into some sort of financial crisis that would cause them to not really be able to regain their sustainability and potentially just fall into poverty,” she said. In Travis County, the minimum income to meet basic needs for a family of four needs to be […]

Read More

Travis Co. Residents Offered Free Lyft Rides To Enroll In Health Insurance

AUSTIN, Texas — With less than a month left to enroll in a health care plan through the Health Insurance Marketplace, Central Health and United Way for Greater Austin have teamed up to ensure residents have a ride to and from enrollment sites in Travis County. • 2019 Open Enrollment Period runs from November 1 to December 15 • Residents should call 211 to schedule a free appointment • Only Travis County residents are eligible for the free Lyft rides The 2019 Open Enrollment Period runs from November 1 to December 15. Central Health wants to ensure residents have the help they need to get health insurance by offering free enrollment and transportation assistance. Residents can call United Way at 211 to schedule a free appointment with an enrollment counselor at a location closest to them from 7:30 a.m.-6 p.m. every Monday through Friday until December 14. When calling that number, people can also schedule a ride with local rides-haring company Lyft to and from their appointment. Central Health has agreed to reimburse United Way for the cost of the rides, but not to exceed $10,000. Only Travis County residents are eligible for the free Lyft rides. Bilingual enrollment specialists are available to assist Spanish-speaking residents. View the article in Spectrum News. 

Read More

Most Austin Families Cannot Access High-Quality Child Care, Leaving A Majority Of Children Unprepared

When 2-year old Juniper Smith arrives at Sweet Briar Child Development Center on Thursday morning in November, after kissing her father goodbye, she and her 10 other classmates discuss their “feeling faces.” An assortment of expressive, paper faces—happy, sad, excited, angry—lay scattered before the children. One by one each child chooses the face he or she relates to that morning. Altogether the class practices the facial expressions.  Through the exercise, the children learn increased control and awareness of their emotions. Afterward, the class plays “I Spy,”  discusses the changing colors of the autumn leaves, and eventually gathers around a table for a family-style lunch, during which the children pass each other dishes and practice table etiquette. By the time Juniper turns 5, unlike 54 percent of her Austin peers, she will likely be ready for kindergarten. Because she’s at the appropriate learning level by the start of kindergarten, Juniper will be four to five times more likely to pass her third-grade STAAR test—the first standardized test issued to Texas public school students—according to the regional education data organization E3 Alliance. And with success on the exam, the likelihood of Juniper’s future academic achievement, statistically speaking, substantially increases. All this, experts say, because she attended a high-quality child care center leading up to kindergarten, one that focuses on education and emotional growth through curriculum rather than simply daycare. This builds off recent discoveries in child brain development, said Cathy McHorse, vice president of United Way Austin’s Success by Six program. “About […]

Read More

New Apple Campus Could Burden Sparse Northwest Austin Child Care Market

The announcement of an estimated 5,000 to 15,000 new Apple employees entering to the Robinson Ranch area in Northwest Austin in the coming years was met with concern by Teri Burchfield, owner, and director of Four Seasons Community School, local daycare. “We turn people away every day,” Burchfield said of those looking for child care without a waitlist. Apple announced plans Dec. 13 to invest $1 billion to expand its Northwest Austin operations center by building a second campus. The decision has been lauded by city and county officials for being beneficial to economic activity and local tax levies. However, the influx of new residents could stretch Northwest Austin’s already sparse child care resources even thinner. In Austin City Council District 6, where the new campus will be located, there are currently 10 child care centers and a population of 8,569 children, according to a United Way of Austin report. “There are long waitlists even for those who can pay for infant and toddler care,” said Cathy McHorse, vice president of United Way of Austin’s Success by Six programs. “We have an insufficient supply to meet the needs of our population. That is likely to present a challenge, especially in [Northwest Austin] as the population booms out there.” Four Seasons Community School is just two miles away from Apple’s current Northwest Austin campus and about 3 miles away from the site of its second campus, set to be completed in 2021. Burchfield said the daycare center’s close proximity to large tech companies such as National Instruments, Dell and […]

Read More

Grumet: Parents Don’t Have To Embark On Day Care Search Alone

In the downtime between giving birth and leaving the hospital, new moms get a crash course in life with a newborn. Nurses explain how to feed a baby. How to safely put a baby down for a nap (always on the child’s back). How to make sure the car seat is secure and the house is babyproofed. How a mother can get help for postpartum depression. What precautions she should take if the doctor prescribed an opioid medication after a Caesarean section. “We realize it is so much information, we can’t just give them a list and say goodbye,” Laura Evans, the director of women’s services at St. David’s South Austin Medical Center, told me. Rather, the nurses provide the information in installments throughout a new mother’s hospital stay. It’s impossible to cover everything. Among the things, new parents don’t learn before leaving the hospital: How to find a good daycare. I’ve been thinking about that a lot since reading the Unwatched series produced by the American-Statesman’s investigative team. The series pointed to alarming holes in the state’s oversight of day care facilities, and our editorial board has rightly called on Texas lawmakers to step up enforcement efforts and provide better information to the public. But state agencies aren’t the only ones in this ecosystem. And this is an area where new parents could use some help — not only to learn how to navigate the database of daycare facilities’ violations but to understand the distinctions between licensed, registered and listed child care facilities. (It matters if you […]

Read More

United Way Launches the 2-Generation Strategic Plan for Austin

All families deserve access to opportunity. However, systems that perpetuate inter-generational poverty threaten the well being of Austin’s residents and its economy, leaving far too many families behind. In Travis County, more than one-third of households with children younger than 18 years old are low income. Meanwhile, employers in our community struggle to find trained candidates to fill well-paying middle-skill jobs. Austin’s current workforce gap is projected to continue to grow and reach more than 60,000 openings for middle-skill jobs by 2021. For many parents who are eager to fill these positions, access to affordable, high-quality child care stands in the way. Although there are many promising anti-poverty programs in Austin, most focus solely on adults or their children, missing the opportunity to foster economic mobility for whole families. The 2-Gen approach to family economic opportunity brings services and resources for parents and children together, ultimately leading to better outcomes for both generations. Over the past several years, leaders across sectors in Austin/Travis County have worked together to better understand and promote a dual-generational (2-Gen) approach aimed at disrupting the cycle of inter-generational poverty. With the release of the Austin/Travis County 2-Gen Strategic Plan, Austin’s nonprofit and municipal leaders are laying the groundwork to intentionally coordinate services for parents and children over the next five years. Austin Mayor Steve Adler and United Way CEO David Smith will formally celebrate the launch of the plan on Thursday, December 13, 2018, at the Headliners Club. City and County officials, business leaders, and […]

Read More

Advocacy Groups Demand Child Care Fixes After Statesman Investigation

Nearly two dozen advocacy groups are calling for improvements to the Texas child care system in the wake of an American-Statesman investigation that found dangerous conditions in many daycares across the state. The groups have sent a letter to Gov. Greg Abbott, state legislators and the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, asking them to, among other things: increase the number of caregivers required to look after children at licensed daycares; require the state to collect data on the connection between caregiver-to-child ratios and unsafe daycare environments; and improve access to quality daycare. “The advocacy world for children and providers has been working for years to improve standards,” said Kim Kofron, executive director for the Texas Association for the Education of Young Children. “It’s time we get something done.” The letter was signed by 23 child welfare advocacy groups including Texans Care for Children, Children’s Defense Fund and United Way for Greater Austin. The Statesman this month published “Unwatched,” a three-day, 12-part investigative series that found that nearly 90 children had died of abuse and neglect suffered in child cares since 2007, while another 450 were sexually abused. Though thousands of children have been injured, lax oversight has allowed hundreds of daycares with scores of violations to continue operating without serious consequences. The Statesman investigation found that child care operators receive paltry fines for violations, averaging about $100, and generally are not fined for the most serious violations, such as hitting or pinching children. “Unwatched” also pointed out that even though nearly half of the […]

Read More

Family Connects: North Carolina Nurses’ Home Visits With New Parents Are Paying Off

  “We talk about children being the future of our economy, the future of our society, but they are human beings NOW, they are part of our community NOW.” We are incredibly proud to have launched the Texas chapter of Family Connects this past August and are excited to see the impact this home-visiting model has in our community. Watch the video or visit www.FamilyConnectsTexas.org to learn more.

Read More

Commentary: It’s Time to Address the Broken Child Care System In Texas

Texas children deserve better. It is likely you picked up the paper this week and it broke your heart. The stories of parents who lost their children are devastating, and we are thankful to the Austin American-Statesman for taking an in-depth look into an issue of such importance to young children and working families in our community. The first five years of a child’s life are a critical period when 90 percent of all brain development occurs. What happens in these early years has a lasting impact from kindergarten readiness to high school graduation and beyond. For working parents, finding the right care for their children can be among the most difficult—and expensive—parenting decisions they face. The American-Statesman rightly questions who is “watching” our children. But licensing oversight is just one piece of a complex system that is fragile, fragmented and chronically underfunded at the state and federal level. Every child in Austin deserves access to high-quality, accredited early care and education. And every working parent deserves confidence in knowing their children are in a safe, nurturing environment while they work to provide for their families. Accreditation requires meeting standards well above basic health and safety licensing rules. This high-quality care provides a warm, responsive environment led by well-educated and compensated teachers with low student-teacher ratios, evidence-based curriculum and parent engagement. Unfortunately, low wages in the child care industry stifle educational attainment and drive high turnover among child care workers in the region. Quality child care is expensive but yields […]

Read More