Local mom struggles to find child care for her special needs daughter

SPOKANE VALLEY, Wash. — Affording child care in general is an obstacle many parents face. It’s even more difficult when your child has special needs that many daycare providers don’t know how to meet. 

Nicolette Samash says ever since her 2-year-old daughter, Leah, was diagnosed with atypical Rett syndrome months back, finding child care has been tough. 

The rare neurodevelopmental disorder impacts speech and motor skills and has been known to cause seizures. 

Though Leah has never had a seizure, Samash says many child care services are unwilling to watch her for fear that she might. 

“I think that scares people from watching her, even though that’s not her situation,” she said.

After finding out her diagnoses just last August, their newly found child care provider called it quits.

“She was like I’m just not comfortable with this. It was crazy to me because she was exact same kid. She was the same kid she was the day before when we had talked about everything,” Samash said.

As a single working mom, child care is something Samash can’t afford to go without. Which is why her family from Alaska is currently staying with her in Spokane Valley, to watch Leah while her mother works. 

Luc Jasmin, the owner of Parkview Early Learning Center, says being able to provide child care to kids with special needs starts with hiring the right staff- which is easier said than done. 

“It’s been really tough because you have to make sure you have the right personnel that understands how to just be there and support the child whatever the need is. You have to have funds to be able to pay that person. There’s a lot of hurdles there to be able to provide that service,” said Jasmin. 

It isn’t just the case for Samash. 

A newly released national study says parents with kids who have disabilities are disproportionately affected by the childcare crisis. 

“If you’re private paying, it just becomes more unaffordable,” said Shelley Gacusana with the Arc of Spokane. “People end up quitting their jobs, staying home. It really puts you into a cycle of poverty that you can’t get out of.” 

Parents who have children with special needs generally face bigger obstacles than parents who have “normally” developed children. Parents like Samash also have to pay for their child’s specialists to help with their special needs. Not having childcare makes it even harder.

“It creates a whole new set of problems. You can’t put your child in childcare so you have to stay home and now that is your life, you’re basically a shut-in and you don’t have a lot of access with the outside world,” Gacusana said.

The report from Center for American Progress says out of 10 parents with young children, at least one parent sacrifices their job each year. For parents of a child with disabilities, studies show that statistic is cut in half.

Samash has her mom to help for now, but that won’t always be the case. Soon she’ll be back in limbo. 

“She has to go back to Alaska for the summer and I just, I don’t know exactly what we’re going to do,” Samash said.

There are certain organizations that support kids with disabilities and their families, like Joya Child and Family Development or the Arc of Spokane. You can also visit Spokane Cares for a variety of resources.