MADISON, Wis. — Erica Kind is a mother, a college student and a teacher’s aid but that has not always been the case.
“When I discovered the Playing Field, I was homeless,” said Kind.
The Playing Field is a day care dedicated to breaking the barriers faced by low-income families. It’s a day care that helped to change Kind’s life.
“I was staying in a homeless shelter. They had the shelter in the hotel down the street and that environment was not the greatest,” said Kind. “I was dealing with some postpartum [depression] and the walk to day care was super ‘woe is me’ but once I opened the door here, I felt so much better.”
Kind said affordable, reliable day care can be very hard to come by.
A Wisconsin Policy Forum report shows that annual costs for child care in the state can be more expensive than college.
Abbi Kruse is the executive director of the Playing Field. She said early in her career she noticed a lack of reliable day care options for families living in poverty.
“For families that can afford it, there are a lot of great options in Madison,” said Kruse. “For families that don’t have the means to pay for a quality program, the options are pretty bleak.”
Kruse first came up with the idea for the Playing Field 20 years ago when she saw a need for high quality early education.
“What I saw was staff that did not understand child development and they were often frustrated with kids for being kids,” said Kruse.
For low-income parents, the lack of options can leave them facing some very difficult decisions.
“Leave your child someplace you are not comfortable with, all day every day, five days a week, or don’t go to work and don’t go to school and don’t pursue any opportunities to better yourself,” said Kruse.
Kind has a hard time thinking about the day care she used to bring her daughter to before finding the Playing Field.
“I would go to drop her off and before we even got through the door, she would be crying and screaming,” said Kind. “I didn’t know what was going on in there, I didn’t have the security I have in here and I ended up not wanting to go to work because I didn’t want to drop her off at day care.”
Thanks to the Playing Field, Kind was able to get a job and is currently studying at Madison College.
“Now I am in a better situation, but I am still living in poverty, and I am working to get out of that by going to school,” said Kind. “I don’t know how I would have done it without the Playing Field.”
While looking for child care, Kind struggled with waiting lists, income barriers, transportation and reliability — all things she hopes to never have to worry about again.