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Access to affordable child care has decreased in the past 13 years, according to a report from the Wisconsin Policy Forum. (Photo by Analise Pruni)

Kristin Lee Aponte thought she had found the perfect day care center for her kids.

Her oldest daughter, Amelia, had started there when she was 1. And her youngest, Brenna, was a newborn when she started coming.

Her plan was to stay at the center until Brenna started school. But the mother discovered one obstacle: The cost.

Despite receiving a subsidy through Wisconsin Shares, a program that covers a portion of child care costs for low-income working families, Aponte’s copay at the center rose to as high as $400 a month. She and her children eventually had to leave the center.

“It was a big letdown,” Aponte said. “Leaving was a painful decision for me, but I just could not keep up with the copay amount.”

Aponte is not alone. The number of families participating in Wisconsin Shares that pay more than their family’s expected copay amount has been increasing over the past 13 years, according to a report released Thursday from the Wisconsin Policy Forum. The Wisconsin Policy Forum is an independent policy research organization with offices in Milwaukee and Madison.

A family’s copay is determined by factors including age, number of children and income, with the amount of the subsidy based on what is left over after the copay is subtracted from the maximum reimbursement rate, Betsy Mueller, a researcher for Wisconsin Policy Forum, said. A family might also be responsible for paying the difference between the maximum reimbursement rate and the actual costs of the care, Mueller added.

Mueller said the increase in the rate of families that paid more than their expected share began after a freeze on the market reimbursement rate that lasted from 2006 to 2013. That, along with inflation and increased child care costs, meant families enrolled in the program were increasingly contributing more than their family’s expected copay.

Back in 2006, 75 percent of child care slots were within the range of the family’s expected copay, but by 2017, that rate had fallen to only 15 percent, according to data from the 2017 Market Rate Survey used in the study.

A federal grant that partially funds Wisconsin Shares recommends reimbursement levels to be high enough so that families that receive the subsidy can access 75 percent of available child care slots, as was the case in 2006. The decrease in the number of affordable child care slots after the subsidy is factored in could impact funding for the program going forward.

According to the report, the federal government recently sent a letter to the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families warning that the Wisconsin Shares program is not meeting compliance standards for a grant it receives and could face a penalty if the child care accessibility rate isn’t increased to 25 percent.

Gov. Tony Evers proposed a $23 million annual increase in funding for the program through the 2019-’21 budget, which would have raised the maximum reimbursement rates for Wisconsin Shares and made 50 percent of child care slots within the range of the family’s expected copay. Some of that funding would have been made available through an increase in the federal Child Care and Development Block Grant program, which provides funds for Wisconsin Shares and other child care subsidy programs.

That proposal was halved by the Republican-controlled Joint Finance Committee. The increase in funding that was included in the final budget should still bring the state up to the 25th percentile, which is compliant with federal grant standards.

“The final budget made some progress in improving access to affordable child care for low-income families, but the issue is unlikely to go away and may continue to be a challenge in future state budgets,” Mueller said.

Taking steps to address this issue in future budgets could greatly benefit early childhood education, low-income families and the state’s workforce, the report states.

As for Aponte, she has once again found a child care center that she is happy with, and one that is much more affordable. She now pays around $85 a month per child, she said. But she still wishes that the program had made child care more affordable for working parents such as herself, and that her children didn’t have to leave their first day care center.

“I miss that place to this day,” she said.

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New York City’s Ailey II will headline a historic night of dance in Milwaukee this weekend. (Photo provided by Ailey II)

History will be made in Milwaukee this weekend when six of the city’s dance troupes share the stage—and the spotlight—with Ailey II, the New York City-based dance company of the esteemed Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.

Nō Studios Dance Fest features a reception Friday night at Nō Studios that is free and open to the public and a dance performance Saturday. The performance has sold out, but the technical rehearsal on Saturday is open to the public from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Sherman Phoenix.

Danceworks Performance MKE, Ton Ko-Thi Children’s Performing Ensemble, the Milwaukee Irish Dance Company, Signature Dance Company, Water Street Dance Milwaukee and WoLF Studios will be dancing on Saturday. The groups represent a variety of methodology and expression.

Danceworks Performance MKE focuses on original contemporary performances and community engagement through learning and fitness programs.

Ton Ko-Thi Children’s Performing Ensemble uses traditional instruments, costumes, music and dance to celebrate the history and cultures within the African diaspora. (Photo provided by Ton Ko-Thi Children’s Performing Ensemble)

Ton Ko-Thi Children’s Performing Ensemble uses traditional instruments, costumes, music and dance to celebrate the history and cultures within the African diaspora. The group has traveled nationally and internationally performing and educating.

The Milwaukee Irish Dance Company features dancers who enjoy collaborating and improving their traditional Irish dancing.

Signature Dance Company is a place for women and young girls to explore and practice their love of dance while building an environment of personal growth.

Water Street Dance Company has performed contemporary dances across the country.

WoLF Studios focuses on inter-genre performances and pushing the limits of traditional choreography.

Nō Studios opened its doors in October. CEO and director John Ridley created the space with his sister Lisa Caesar as a haven for artists. She emphasized that, although New York City carries the star power, the real draw is right here in Milwaukee.

The Milwaukee dancers “are incredibly talented performers with rich histories. They’re groundbreaking in their own right,” Caesar said. “To see all the local companies and Ailey at once, it has a huge impact and highlights the fact that no one is sacrificing quality by seeing them.”

Dani Kuepper, artistic director of Danceworks Performance MKE, said the venue itself is newsworthy.

Sherman Phoenix, located at 3536 W. Fond du Lac Ave., came into existence as a positive solution to violence and unrest. It opened its doors in November, and it is home to several local small businesses that will be open during the dance fest technical rehearsal on Saturday.

“An outstanding thing for me, is not only to bring dance companies together but to bring attention to Sherman Phoenix, to go there and to see the exciting progress they’ve made in revitalizing that building and bringing all this attention to the local venders. It’s an exciting thing to be a part of,” Kuepper said.

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(Photo by Adam Carr)

It’s Friday in Milwaukee, and here are some events that can enrich your weekend. If you would like your event to be considered for this column, please email info@milwaukeenns.org and put “5 things” in the subject line by noon Thursday.

1. Sculptures and stories walking tour: Friday, July 19

Join Ex Fabula and Sculpture Milwaukee for a walking tour inspired and based on the sculptures on Wisconsin Avenue on Friday, July 19. The event features father and son duo, Shawn and Dominic, as the storytellers. The group plans to meet at the Monarch Lounge, 509 W. Wisconsin Ave. Registration begins at 1 p.m. and the walk takes place at 1:30 p.m. Tickets cost $10 in advance and $15 the day of.

2. Parks & Public Safety Day: Saturday, July 20

The Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office and Milwaukee County Parks are meeting with community members at Kosciuszko Park, 2101 S. 7th St., on Saturday, July 20. The event is free and provides an opportunity for Milwaukee residents to engage with the sheriff’s office. The event starts at 11 a.m. and includes giveaways, snacks and more.

3. 50 Books Kids club meeting at the library: Saturday, July 20
Families are welcome to join the 50 Books Kids book club on Saturday, July 20 for a club meeting. Children up to age 13 can participate in literacy, STEM and art activities. The meeting will take place at the Washington Park Public Library, 2121 N. Sherman Blvd., from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

4. Neighborhood-wide rummage sale: Saturday, July 20
The Martin Drive Neighborhood Association, 1235 N. 44th, is hosting its 16th annual rummage sale, which spans the entire neighborhood. The sale starts at 8:30 a.m. and goes until 4 p.m. To learn more, register or get an online map, click here. Registration is free.

5. Music in Mitchell Park: Sunday, July 21

Milwaukee residents are invited to Clark Square’s concert series, Music in Mitchell Park, on Sunday, July 21. Robert Hawkins, an award-winning gospel singer, will be performing. The concert will be held in the Mitchell Park Amphitheatre, South 24th and West Pierce streets, and starts at 3 p.m.

Bonus: NNS “Family Portraits” photoshoot during Music in Mitchell Park: Sunday, July 21

Come meet NNS Photographer Sue Vliet, along with others from our team, during a free photo session at Mitchell Park, South 24th and West Pierce streets, on Sunday, July 21 from 2:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. as part of Music in Mitchell Park. Families, friends and neighbors will get the opportunity to pose in front of the Domes for a professional photo.

Bonus 2: Don’t forget the annual Garfield Days Jazz, Blues, Gospel and Arts Festival, which takes place from noon to 8 p.m. Saturday, July 20 on West Garfield Avenue from North King Drive to North 7th Street.

And don’t forget our NNS Summer Survival Guide.

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Meet your favorite online newsroom team (that’s NNS, right?) and pose for a free family portrait in front of the Mitchell Park Domes. (Photo by Sue Vliet)

You read us.

Now meet us.

And get your picture taken as a reward.

NNS will be at Music in Mitchell Park from 2:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, July 21. Come meet our team during a free photo session.

Families, friends and neighbors will get the opportunity to pose in front of the Domes for a professional photo.

It’s all going down at Mitchell Park, South 24th and West Pierce streets

And did we mention you get to meet us?

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A banner featuring megachurch leader Naasón Joaquín Garcia, charged in California with child rape and human trafficking, among other crimes, has been ordered removed by the city. (Photo by Edgar Mendez)

A South Side church has until July 31 to remove or correct a banner featuring the leader of a Mexico-based megachurch who was arrested and charged last month with child rape, human trafficking and other crimes

The banner features Naasón Joaquín Garcia, the leader of La Luz Del Mundo, a Mexico-based megachurch, who was arrested and charged last month in California. Some residents have demanded church officials remove it from the front of the local church at 1316 S. Cesar E. Chavez Drive.

The Department of Neighborhood Services inspected the banner July 11, and officials say the banner violates the municipal ordinance for exterior signage limits and ordered it be taken down.

Signs are only permitted to be 25 square feet per 25 lineal feet of the length of a building, unless an owner receives a special permit, according to the violation order. The current banner is estimated at 144 square feet by the Department of Neighborhood Services.

The church has until July 31 to remove or correct the sign, or it could face prosecution or daily penalties ranging from $150 to $10,000, according a violation order sent to the church by the Department of Neighborhood Services. Church officials have 20 days to file an appeal.

A second banner hangs from the La Luz Del Mundo Family Services, 1570 W. Greenfield Ave. It is not clear whether the church will remove the second banner. (Photo by Edgar Mendez)

Residents have demanded church officials remove the banner. But its leaders have refused, comparing Garcia’s arrest and prosecution to the false persecution of Jesus Christ while defending his innocence.

The city says it is not regulating the content of the banner. We “enforce the code with respect to size, configuration, etc.,” Jeff Fleming, communications officer for the city, wrote in an email to NNS.

Saul Cruz, a church representative, said leaders have ordered new banners that will not feature Garcia’s image to meet the city’s requirements.

The controversy erupted after a Facebook post called for the removal of the large banner that featured a smiling Garcia, which was hung above the main entrance to the church.

The violation order does not mention the church’s other property on West Greenfield Avenue that features a similar banner.

Garcia, who is being held in California, appeared in court Tuesday and was denied bail by a judge. According to various news reports, witnesses described videos allegedly showing Garcia participating in sex acts involving minors. New charges of child pornography were added.

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Kids enjoy the splash pad at Moody Park. (Photo by Sue Vliet)

It’s about to get hot. Extremely hot.

The National Weather Service has issued a heat advisory that covers the Milwaukee area.

The heat index, which measures what the temperature feels like when combined with humidity, could reach as high as 110 in some parts of the region

“Summer heat is finally here,” said Jeanette Kowalik, health commissioner, in a news release from the Milwaukee Health Department. “With this is mind, we must be vigilant about protecting ourselves, our loved ones, neighbors, and pets from the dangers of extreme heat … Prevention is the key to surviving the heat.”

Here are some ways you can stay cool:

Splash pads and wading pools

Milwaukee County Parks plans to keep pools open during regular business hours during the predicted weekend heatwave. Look for one of the eight free splash pads close to your neighborhood, or call the pools hotline at (414) 257-8098 for more information.

How to find an extreme heat cooling center

1. Use your phone

Call Impact at 2-1-1, which can connect you to the overnight shelters and centers closest to you. You can also text your ZIP code to TXT-211.

2. Go online

Use the 2-1-1 Wisconsin website to find the food pantry in your neighborhood. You can also look at the city health department’s list of designated cooling centers.

Cooling center locations

1. Many senior centers serve as a bad weather shelters in extreme heat. Two cooling sites are the Washington Park Senior Center, 4420 W Vliet St., or Arlington Court, 1633 N. Arlington Place.

The county’s Department on Aging is a member of the Milwaukee Heat Task Force, a group of organizations that develop strategies to protect the health and safety of residents in the event of extreme heat. Call the Aging Resource Center at (414) 289-6874 for information on other locations and resources during hot weather.

2. All Milwaukee Public Library locations allow individuals to cool down in the air-conditioning during regular business hours. Call (414) 286-3000 to speak with a librarian regarding a specific branch.

3. Many local organizations and governmental buildings welcome visitors to air-conditioned common areas and community spaces to stay cool.

Follow these tips from the county health department to beat the heat.

1. Slow down and limit physical activity, especially if you are working outside or in hot settings.

2. Never leave children, persons with a disability, or pets in a parked car – as temperatures can become life threatening within minutes.

3. Use fans to increase ventilation, unless temperatures exceed 90 degrees at which fans become ineffective in reducing heat-related illness. 

4. Stay Hydrated! Drink plenty of water throughout the day regardless of thirst, to avoid dehydration.

5. Check in with neighbors and family to make sure they are staying cool.

For more tips on making the most of the summer, check out our NNS Summer Survival Guide.

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Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service | Yo.. by Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service - 4d ago

Welcome to NNS Summer Survival Guide, which will give you the resources you need to have a successful summer. Did we miss anything? Email us at info@milwaukeenns.org and put “NNS Survival Guide” in the subject line or catch us on Facebook, where you can leave comments.
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The Milwaukee County Transportation, Public Works and Transit Committee is weighing the possibility of replacing current transit security with a Transit Security Division operated by the sheriff’s office. (Photo provided by MCTS)

After a bus operator was stabbed by a disgruntled passenger in May, debate about safety on Milwaukee County Transit System buses has grown increasingly intense.

County supervisors and MCTS employees are exploring new ways to prevent assaults as well as better ways to handle them.

The Milwaukee County Transportation, Public Works and Transit Committee has discussed  replacing current transit security with a Transit Security Division operated by the sheriff’s office.

And the sheriff’s office has released a study on the potential costs of creating a new division.

Here are some things you need to know:

The background

Several MCTS employees appeared at the committee hearing to provide their insights and experiences. The drivers recounted stories of being punched, threatened with violence, hit with bottles or trash and being verbally harassed.

“I didn’t want to come back to work (after a safety incident), but I need to work. This happens to us all the time,” Sherry Jones, an MCTS operator, said.

Some testified that when they called to report the incidents, transit security officers arrived late or not all. Others said drivers were not asked to fill out incident reports after violent incidents.

“We have no idea how many of the incidents go unreported by drivers because of lack or time or because they fear nothing is going to happen with it anyway,” driver Tom Stawicki said.

The sheriff’s report said that in 2018, bus drivers made just over 6,000 dispatch calls related to security incidents. Transit security officers wrote about 3,500 incident reports, and police officers were called to respond to almost 300 of those incidents.

Opinions on the proposal

Many of the MCTS employees who spoke at the hearing explicitly expressed their support of a Transit Security Division.

Milwaukee County Supervisor Dan Sebring, a member of the Transportation, Public Works and Transit Committee, introduced the resolution to study the possibility of creating a Transit Security Division in February.

“There’s no sense in going forward simply taking over security duties,” he said. “What we need on the buses is law enforcement.”

Dan Boehm, managing director of the Milwaukee County Transit System, said a decision on creating a Transit Security Division should ultimately be left to the county board.

Supervisor Marina Dimitrijevic said the testimony of the drivers scared her, but she feels the solution is not law enforcement.

“The amount of money that we spend in this city, in this county on the over-militarization of our community is unacceptable… What we need to be investing in is promoting peace,” she said.

How much would it cost?

Currently, Milwaukee County pays a private firm to provide security on public transit.

The contract funds 34 transit security officers for $1.5 million per year. To provide staffing equal to current security, the estimated cost is $2.8 million. To create a fully equipped Transit Security Division, including employees and infrastructure, the estimated cost is about $7.2 million.

Deputy Inspector Dan Hughes said at the meeting that he would expect costs for a new unit to be even higher than the report predicted.

After discussion at the committee meeting, Sebring said the predicted costs were much lower than he expected.

What’s next?

Hughes emphasized during the meeting that a Transit Security Division could not appear overnight. The positions that would need to be filled “do not exist.” The process to hire and train new deputies takes a year.

The next Transportation, Public Works and Transit Committee meeting will be Sept. 4.

Got questions? We can find the answers. E-mail info@milwaukeenns.org and put “transit questions” in the subject line.

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Etta Whitley (from left), her son Derell Sultan and Dr. Nicholas Young meet at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin’s Midtown Clinic. (Photo provided by Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin)

Editor’s note: This story is part of an occasional series that highlights groups and people worth knowing in Milwaukee. To nominate a person or a group, email info@milwaukeenns.org and put “Spotlight” in the subject line.

Derell Sultan started showing signs of depression when he was 7.

He was getting bullied, feeling excluded and coming home from school sad and upset.

“One time in second grade I was fidgeting, and my teacher asked me if I took my pills in front of the whole class,” Derell said. “I really wanted to run out.”

At school, he was repeatedly disciplined for fidgeting and talking out of turn. For a time, his mother, Etta Whitley, was called into school nearly every day because of Derell’s behavior. She wanted to be there, she said, to help him stay on task so he could learn.

When his academic work started to drop, Whitley began to look for help at a medical clinic. She recognized her son’s symptoms as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, because she had herself received the diagnosis as a child. What helped her, she said, was talking about it with a therapist.

Derell and his mom recently traveled to Washington, D.C., to speak up for mental and behavioral health for kids at the Children’s Hospital Association Family Advocacy Day.

They talked  with their congressional representatives about Derell’s experiences with ADHD and about keeping Medicaid strong for kids, supporting school-based mental health services and investing in the pediatric mental and behavioral workforce, Whitley said.

ADHD is one of the most common mental disorders affecting children, and it also affects many adults, according to the American Psychiatric Association. Symptoms include not being able to keep focus, impulsivity and hyperactivity.

The association estimates that 8.4 percent of children and 2.5 percent of adults have ADHD, which is often first identified in school-aged children when it leads to disruption in the classroom or problems with schoolwork.

Persistence pays off

After failing to get help from Derell’s school as well as from the first clinic and psychologist they visited, Whitley said she started to get discouraged. Then one day, she noticed Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin had opened a clinic in Midtown Center, near her home.

Whitley walked in and was surprised to get an appointment with a pediatrician within the week. A diagnosis soon followed, and she and Derell were referred to Dr. Nicholas Young, a pediatric psychologist.

Derell and Young hit it off immediately, Whitley said. “It didn’t really feel like a doctor’s appointment for him.” Derell opened up to Young.

Derell on Dr. Young - SoundCloud
(62 secs long, 2 plays)Play in SoundCloud

The boy told his doctor about how the kids on the school bus ganged up on him and wouldn’t let him sit down and how a girl made fun of him in front of the entire school.

Young taught Derell strategies for controlling his responses and helping him focus.

One strategy: “Keep my attention in one spot. Just stay there in one little tiny spot. If it moves around to another place — wanderland — just take it and say ‘no no no no. Stay right where you’re at,’” Derell said in his best SpongeBob accent.

Another strategy: When there’s nothing going on in class, “and there’s just madness, pull a book out of your desk and secretly read, ” said Derell.

Talking with Young made Derell more comfortable advocating for himself and telling someone what was going on with him, Whitley said, instead of letting his frustration build to a breaking point.

Under Young’s care, Derell’s behavior transformed rapidly. By the end of second grade, his grades had improved, and he was getting along with other kids. Now 9, Derell has recently finished third grade and is thriving.

Integrating behavioral health and primary care at one location, as it has at Midtown Clinic, is a priority for Children’s Hospital, said Lindsay Punzenberger, director of federal government relations. “But we also know we need to get to the kids where they spend most of their day, which is in the schools.”

RESOURCES:

Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin primary care clinics in Milwaukee

COA Goldin Center

2320 W. Burleigh St.

(414) 253-1854

Monday – Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Services:

(The clinic is managed by nurse practitioners.)

Primary (routine) care to children and caregivers

Annual physicals

Sports physicals

Immunizations

Same-day appointments for sick care

Measles shots

Good Hope Pediatrics

7720 W. Good Hope Road

(414) 253-0853

Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Services:

Pediatric primary care

Measles shots

Midtown Clinic

5433 W. Fond Du Lac Ave.

(414) 253-1060

Monday-Thursday, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Friday, 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Services:

Pediatric and adolescent primary care

Behavioral medicine

Dental care

Measles shots

Next Door Pediatrics

2561 N. 29th St.

(414) 253-1776

Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Services:

Pediatric primary care

Measles shots

Northside YMCA

1350 W. North Ave.

(414) 409-0278

Monday-Thursday, 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Friday, 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.

Services:

(The clinic is managed by nurse practitioners.)

Primary (routine) care to children

Annual physicals

Sports physicals

Immunizations

Same-day appointments for sick care

Measles shots

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At the Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service, we believe in providing a platform for our neighbors—and for those who serve them.

And they include young people who often get a bad rap.

Meet some who are doing great things.

Today we celebrate the emerging high school journalists who recently graduated from Marquette University’s Urban Journalism Workshop. Check out their work.

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