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Washington County Kids plans to hold community meetings on after-school, and summer program options.

RileyA Washington County nonprofit has received thousands of dollars from the Meyer Memorial Trust to help fund children's after-school activities.

Last week, the group Washington County Kids received $35,000 to conduct community meetings about the status of early learning, pre-school, after-school, and summer programs in the county. The group hopes to increase the number of programs available for area children, and is looking for ways to approach the problem.

Katie Riley, chairwoman of Washington County Kids, said before- and after-school programs boost school performance but they are often unavailable for students. Families often face waiting lists, high pay-to-play fees and other obstacles, she said.

"Families with multiple children often cannot afford care for all their children even with subsidies and transportation can be a problem when programs are not offered at convenient locations such as schools."

Riley said that parents living in poverty often can't afford childcare or after-school programs for children. Riley said 97 percent of children living in poverty are not enrolled in Head Start or Pre-School Promise programs.

"While kids in Washington County generally fare better than their counterparts in other Oregon counties, children in poverty in Washington County need assistance," Riley said. "The areas of need are not widely known but include food insecurity and after school care, among other needs."

One solution Washington County Kids is considering is a property tax levy to pay for child care and after-school and summer programs in the county. Similar children's levies have passed in Portland, Seattle, Oakland, and other cities.

"We are also considering the possibility of forming a Children's Special District for the County," said Washington County Kids member Susan Bender Phelps. "(That program) would be a voter-approved means of providing sustainable, locally sourced funding for these programs."

For more information about Washington County Kids' Community Conversations, visit http://www.WashingtonCountyKids.com.

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