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Ensuring Clear Communication about Childcare Subsidies

What Happened

Hector and his family receive a childcare subsidy from the City. When the City-run daycare his children attend closed for two weeks in August, Hector tried to contact his caseworker in Children’s Services to see what alternative childcare options were available. Unfortunately, Hector was unable to get in touch with them. He then enrolled his children in a summer camp thinking that the childcare subsidy would be transferred to the camp for the duration of the daycare closure. Instead, the City denied his request for reimbursement, as well as his subsequent appeal, saying that the summer camp was not authorized by the City, therefore did not qualify for the subsidy. He came to us for help.

What We Did

We contacted Children’s Services, reviewed documents, and conducted a number of meetings with City staff in order to understand what happened and what policies were being followed in this case. We had concerns that the City had not clearly communicated the transfer process or its reasons for denying Hector a reimbursement, and we recommended that the City reimburse Hector for the cost of the summer camp.

The Result

The City followed our recommendation to reimburse Hector, and committed to ensuring that their future communication with families is clear and transparent. Children’s Services will also be reviewing its appeals process, which we will follow up on to ensure it is fair.

Why this Matters

Fairness requires clear and accessible communication — people have the right to understand how a policy affects them, as well as reasons for why a decision was made. In this case, Hector received neither of those — he was not informed of the requirements for transferring a subsidy and he received unclear communication from the City throughout his appeal process. This was not fair.