Long before I ever began working in the child care advocacy field, I watched family and friends scramble to find affordable care for their children. From being a middle-schooler operating as the family babysitter, to later being the official nanny to my god-brother 12 hours a day for $400 a month, my experience with helping parents care for their children has been fraught with stress, frustration, and desperation.
That reality is still the story of so many parents and caregivers with children across the nation.
Child care is indeed very expensive and it is part of the economic challenges that affect families making ends meet.
My state of California ranks 3rd out of 50 states and the District of Columbia for most expensive infant care. On average, families in California spend $1,400 per month for care of one child. This is an incredible challenge for parents who want to lift up their families, especially if they are single parents. From coast to coast, current funding for child care assistance is inadequate and covers only a fraction of the need that exists in families.
We know from the wealth of research over the past few years that early childhood affects our well-being far into adulthood. Yet, given that child care can cost as much as college tuition, the amount that our state and local budgets designate for child care and early education will not end the challenge families face.
As a child care advocate, I have seen the grim reality of parents having to choose to pay for child care or keep a roof over their heads. They have had to give up jobs, relocate and commute across incredible distances in order to afford housing and care payments. They have had to rely on undesirable care arrangements because there simply was nothing else available.
I have seen parents in tears because they don’t qualify for child care assistance, even though they barely make enough to pay for housing and food.
It’s outrageous what our families are going through in America.
The recent victory for child care educators in California offers hope for a shift in priorities and policy to better value the work of caring for our children. In fact, California is indeed a leader in our nation when it comes to respecting child care educators. Let’s celebrate that victory and continue advocating for solutions to give every child the opportunity to receive the resources they need to succeed in life.
Our values are shifting, and they must shift if we are to truly provide quality care for every child in our nation.
We are building a movement, lobbying and fighting to reimagine a child care system that engages parents and caregivers with compassion, with recognition of the multitude of barriers families face in addition to caring for children, and to ensure that families are able to move through their lives knowing that their children are growing well when they cannot be in their parents’ presence.
Reducing the amount of stress parents and care-providers face through envisioning and uplifting the importance of intentional, supportive child care creates a paradigm shift in which care of our young people is no longer an afterthought, but a restructuring that recognizes the importance of family well-being on the health of our social, political, and economic worlds.
Our parents, our children, and our communities deserve no less.