By Viktoria Bjerke from Belle Plaine, Minnesota

My name is Viktoria Bjerke. I am 24 years old, married, and I have two children, ages one and two. We are a working family from Belle Plaine, Minnesota. My kids are my world and I want them to have every opportunity possible — as would any other parent out there.

I just graduated school as a medical assistant and my husband is a union machine operator making 53K a year. We were eligible for daycare assistance sliding scale at the beginning of 2019 while I was in school. They gave us 50 hours for 2 weeks. CCAP did not cover the full amount of tuition for New Horizons in Shakopee so we had to pay the $177 on top of our $77 co-pay. We were paying around $250 a week. I ended up going back to work while I was in school so I could cover the cost of day care. I worked at Burger King making $19,500 a year. About three months after enrolling our kids at New Horizons, we got an early learning scholarship that would pay the difference of what CCAP did not cover and the weekly co-payment. We are truly grateful to get the help we are getting!

While I was working, I got offered a general management position. I called and checked with the county worker and was told that if I took the position, I would lose my day care assistance because we would be making slightly more than the allowed income. If I took the position, I would lose my assistance, but I would still not be making enough to keep my kids in day care, so I turned the position down. I finished school and started my internship that was eight weeks long. I was receiving no income at the time. After my internship, I went back to work at Burger King – waiting to take my exams. I passed my exams and started to look for work in the medical field. While looking, I saw that starting pay was around $15-$16 an hour. Knowing that would put us over for our daycare assistance, I decided to just stay at Burger King. Yes, I would be making more money if I left, but I would not make enough to cover the $815 a week to have both kids in child care.

After some time at work, my boss asked me if I would like a raise. I called the county and asked how much more I could make without losing our day care and she told me that I was going to most likely lose it at re-determination because the annual income exit level is $69,698 and we would make over that. I asked if there was anything I could do to keep it. She said that unless we pay a monthly medical and dental premium, there wasn’t. My husband gets medical and dental through work but doesn’t pay a premium. It’s rated at $7 an hour. I asked her if that would work and she said no.

So, here I am trying to figure out ways to keep my kids in their day care. New Horizons teachers spend more time with my children than I do, so I want my kids to be comfortable where they are at.

Both my kids have gained so much from New Horizons! When my oldest started, he had speech delays and only could say about three to five words. The teachers have worked so hard with my kids! Just a year later, my two-year-old is talking and can have a conversation typical of a young child. I know 100% of this was the teachers taking time to work with him when I could not. I have looked around, and yes, I could put my kids in a in home day care if I could find a good one, but would they benefit from it? Would they get all the opportunities that they are getting now? I don’t think so.

Since finding out I will be losing my assistance, I have been so stressed out. It has consumed me! I could stay at home, but then all our bills fall on my husband and he still doesn’t make enough to cover them all. We do not live in a fancy house or drive fancy cars. We can barely afford to travel to see family, let alone pay $800+ a week for child care. As a parent, I feel like my kids deserve a good education, but I can’t give them that because we make ‘just over’ the allowable amount. We work and pay our bills like we are supposed to and we live a quiet life.

Viktoria’s children

I find myself putting stuff back at the store now so I can have the extra money to put in my day care account. We are considered a middle-class family yet I don’t make enough for my kids to be in day care. It’s hard as a parent. My kids don’t get everything they want, but I never thought I would be thinking about divorcing my husband, taking out loans, or asking our parents to help so I can keep my kids in day care. We never thought that salaries from our 40 hour a week jobs wouldn’t be enough to keep our kids in day care. All these things have been in my head and we just don’t know what to do.

As a “middle class” family we should be able to afford to give our kids a good solid foundation for them to start school. I’ve cried many times because my kids have friends in this day care. The teachers are like family and love my kids just like I love them. It makes me feel secure to know my kids are being loved and taken care of and then sad to think they may no longer be able to continue to go there. I think New Horizons is amazing and we couldn’t ask for a better day care.

By no means am I saying I shouldn’t have to pay. We are willing to pay! We just flat out can’t afford $800+ a week. We have worked and reworked a budget and it doesn’t fit. We would be negative $400+ a month just to be able to give our kids an education we think and feel they deserve.

So, like any mother would, I started looking for help and there is none beside the scholarship we already have. In my search, I found many articles of low middle-class families like myself asking for help. I have yet to find anyone that says they can help. We love New Horizons and it has given our kids so much knowledge. I just want someone to listen. Someone to know this is a problem. Not only for me, but a lot of middle-class families. If this never helps us, but it saves another family from the stress and heartache of possibly having to take their kids out of day care and quit their jobs, then I’ve done something right.

I am not looking for a hand out. I’m looking for help — help to make it possible for the middle-class family to give their young kids a good foundation in a caring environment. I’ve never been one to beg, I’ve always just gone out and worked for it, but I’m willing to beg for my kids. They deserve the right to a quality education.

Every day I dread checking the mail, knowing that sometime soon I will have a letter saying we will no longer qualify for help. I hurt as a parent for my babies because they’re the ones who are going to lose out. I keep asking myself one question “what am I going to do?” Who do I turn to for help when there is none available for us? I find myself wanting my kids to grow up faster so I can afford day care, and so I don’t have to worry about how all my bills are going to get paid, or if I’ll be able to afford to keep them in a place they love. As a parent, you never give up on your kids, and I never will. I will continue look and ask for help, not only for us, but for other families as well.