State program to provide vets with child care


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Tiny Boots, announced by the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs, will give free child care to Illinois veterans attending counseling, medical appointments or job interviews through a partnership with the YWCA.

By Caroline Bowen

Since returning from serving six years  in the U.S. Army, Englewood resident Colzetta Jackson has had trouble finding and keeping a civilian job in the city—a problem she said many Chicago veterans face.

“It is getting more difficult every day,” Jackson, a mother of two, said.

To combat this and other problems veterans experience, the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs announced a pilot program Feb. 14 that Jackson said could help her finally find a stable job. The Tiny Boots program, announced at the Edward Hines Jr. Veterans Administration Hospital in Hines, Illinois, provides free child care to veterans statewide attending counseling, a medical appointment or a job interview.

According to IDVA public information officer Dave MacDonna, Illinois veterans eligible for Tiny Boots must have been honorably discharged and  be able to verify that they are attending one of  the three types of appointments.

MacDonna said the program will be offered in Cook, Kane and DuPage counties and will be funded by the department’s Vet Cash grant program lottery ticket. The IDVA’s goal is to eventually making it available to all Illinois veterans, he added. 

“We are hoping the program will be one less stress for the Illinois veteran—that he or she will be able to take advantage of it and go to the appointment that will help them continue to lead a productive life,” MacDonna said.

The IDVA partnered with YWCA Metropolitan Chicago, which will register veterans for the program and choose a local child care provider, according to Shelley Bromberek-Lambert, YWCA’s chief reimagination officer.

“Many of [the child care services] are women-owned businesses or small proprietary businesses, and we really want to help them by filling unused capacity,” she said. “So it really is a win-win situation.”

In order to use the program, veterans must give the organization notice one week prior to the appointment. The YWCA will arrange and schedule child care once that information is provided, the IDVA press release stated.    

“We want all of the women we treat to go from surviving to thriving, and that’s what we are hoping this program will enhance,” Bromberek-Lambert said.

Jackson said Tiny Boots is a work in progress, and she is concerned she will still need free child care services during the time between finding a job and receiving her first paycheck. 

Jackson proposed a two-week extension to the program for veterans once they have started their new jobs because she said many child care providers—not arranged by the YWCA—request payment before taking in new children. 

“It could use some improvements, but it’s a big start to helping us veterans,” she said.