Offering poor women the option of caring for their children while they go out to work or study was the spirit of the Red de Cuido (childcare network) program created by the administration of Laura Chinchilla (2010-2014).
The program by Costa Rica’s first and only woman president was to meet the needs of thousands of women. However, the reality today is that many women who send their children to the daycare centers do not study or work, rather are stay at home mothers.
This is clear from the data provided by the Mixto de Ayuda Social (IMAS), the governing body of the program and the Centros de Educación y Nutrición y de Centros Infantiles de Atención Integral (CEN-Cinái) – the children’s center for education and nutrition and comprehensive care.
According to the IMAS, of the 17,572 families that receive subsidies for the Red de Cuido, in 23.6% (4,156) of them, the mothers do not work or study. This occurs despite that there are 1,893 families on the waiting list.
The target population of the Red Nacional de Cuido and Desarrollo Infantil (Redcudi) is children from 0 to 6 years old (although it is exceptionally extended to 12 years of age), from families in poverty and extreme poverty (levels 1 and 2).
The IMAS invested an average of ¢29.2 billion colones in the program in 2017. As of October 2017, there were 1,127 alternative care options.
It is not known how much was invested in the CEN-Cinái and the PANI, the child welfare agency.
Asked why the Red de Cuido cares for children whose mothers are at home, Emilio Arias, executive president of the IMAS, said that the women who do not work or study represent a “minimum percentage” of the beneficiaries.
He explained that objectives of the Red de Cuido is being met. “There are three objectives of the Red de Cuido: the right of children to have a place of care and food, that parents can study and work and the commitment to the integral development of the child,” Arias told La Nacion.
Who is privileged, a mother who applies for the benefit who is working or studying or a mother who does not study or work and is at home?
Neither, says Arias.
According to Emilio Arias, by law, the IMAS has a “limitation” that the people served by the Red de Cuido must be on the poverty line or extreme poverty, but many families, when they are working, are outside the poverty range and do not qualify for the benefit.
“I agree that we must have reforms to the law to ensure that the care network not only meets the needs of children living in poverty but that mothers who are not in extreme poverty have a place to leave their children,” Arias said.
Source (in Spanish): La Nacion