Start with families that are working but still living in poverty, or are just trying to make it from one paycheck to the next. These are the families with lower incomes who need high-quality child care as a means to better their child's long-term outcomes. They are struggling with other household expenses and can't afford to add child care to the mix. A family of three in Massachusetts living at the poverty level would have to pay nearly 85% of their income for full-time center-based care for just one infant!
Start, too, with single parents. In every state, the average cost of center-based infant care exceeds 24% of a single parents' median income. The financial math works against them.
Start with millennial parents. They are saddled with mountains of educational debt and are putting off buying homes and having families. Estimates reveal about 1 out of 4 postsecondary students are parents — and many of those students are millennials trying to improve their circumstances.
Start with families who need child care coverage during nontraditional hours. They are working when my family is sleeping or relaxing. They work the night shift, or on weekends, or they have shifts that change by the week, and they have little to no quality options to support their work schedules.
Start with the parents of children with special needs who can't find access to critical services at an affordable cost, if they can find them in their area at all.
Start with parents from rural areas. They are experiencing child care deserts (areas where the supply of quality child care doesn't meet the demand). These parents cobble together temporary or unstable arrangements just to get to work or school.
And of critical importance, please start by investing in the child care workforce across the country. It's been researched that half of the people that provide care for our nation's children are living in poverty. They are woefully undercompensated and under supported, even though they are critical to the quality early learning experiences children need to be ready for school and life.
Ivanka, I appreciate and respect the attention you are bringing to this critical issue, but don't make this a winning issue for only some us — all of us need your support.
Investment in early childhood education is a win for children.
Investment in early childhood education is a win for families.
Investment in early childhood education is a major win for the economy.
Commentary by Michelle McCready, chief of policy at Child Care Aware of America. Follow her on Twitter at @MichelleNoth.
This commentary originally ran on Medium.com.
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