With all the political rhetoric taking place in this 2020 election cycle, the issue of child care has become front and center for people of all backgrounds, including those without children. Child care is a real concern for parents, providers, and businesses owners with employees who have children. It should be viewed as an essential public investment for all communities and a required commitment to ensure gender, economic and racial justice is accessible for all children.
Last week, I had the honor to attend a vibrant rally on one of our nation’s most important but often forgot about topics–child care, being outweighed by COVID and election coverage lately. Yet the COVID-19 pandemic, that has economically crippled the world, has exacerbated our current child care crisis, and has greatly exposed the need for high-quality child care that is often out of reach for many families.
Early childhood education centers that are able to provide child care at lower rates do so at the expense of their valued employees, leaving a domino effect that forces their employees to not earn livable wages. So if ever there was a time to protest, rally and take to the streets for a cause it is child care. But instead of going against current CDC guidelines and attending a jam packed event of well-intentioned change makers, this rally was held in the safety of my home, via a link, virtually.
With so much emphasis on voting in what has been frequently referred to as the most important election of our lives, this rally highlighted not only the importance of voting but to be a child care voter. What does it mean to be a child care voter? Simply stated, a child care voter is a mother, father, sister, brother, aunt, uncle, grandparent, godparent, provider, business owner or and any person voting with children and the economy on their minds and in their hearts.
The rally was hosted by beloved author, professor, moderator, Dr. Melissa Harris Perry, known largely from her widely popular show, The Melissa Harris Parry show. Harris, who briefly spoke to her time as a child care worker during her college days and being a firsthand witness to the disparity amongst people who work with children, frequently stated how this cause is near and dear to her heart even more now as a mother of two daughters.
Not only has child care been an integral part of my life, as a mother of four, but affordable and safe child care has been at the center of it for decades – with my children who are currently ranging from their mid-twenties to my youngest in his first year of middle school. For the formative years, child care determined if and where I could work, the minimal salary I could accept to be able to pay for the essential service as well as the location of my employment, because there’s often strict rules with regard to pick up and drop off times.
For some parents, like myself, live those first ten or so years with an eye on the day you don’t need child care, not because you don’t value the essential service but because you are often spending more than half of your earnings to cover the expense. We as parents want our children to flourish, and in turn our communities will prosper. Hence, as a community, we must support affordable, high quality, accessible and inclusive child care to all.
It took me years as a parent to realize and understand that all of us experience these dilemmas, but so few of us advocate for change. Somewhere along the line we learned that child care was our individual cross to bear and in fact it is upon all of us to effect change.
That’s why in the child care election of 2020, we all need to be child care voters for our families and for our country.
Children should be our first priority in all local and federal budgets.
Let us not forget that these children will be the adults who care for us as we age. One panelist, Claricha Foster, a child care provider and community leader in Lansing, Michigan said, “be careful what you cut.” In reference to funding and public policy. She piggybacked the importance of early childhood education and stressed that, “young people matter.” A sentiment shared by all participants of the rally and the reason why we all are and should be child care voters.