Childcare: The Modern Day Holy Grail

“‘Have you guessed the riddle yet?’ the Hatter said, turning to Alice again.  ‘No, I give it up,’ Alice replied: ‘what’s the answer?’ ‘I haven’t the slightest idea,’ said the Hatter.”—Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

My husband and I made the mistake of not calling our preferred daycare provider the moment I realized I was pregnant.  You would think that we wouldn’t have made such a novice mistake, but when you’ve got a full house, a new dog, you’re working, and your pregnant, things tend to fall through the cracks (at least they did for us).

As a result, we spent months scrambling to find quality care, hoping to find something before I had to go back to work.  Every place we tried had nothing available (I’m betting even Rumpelstiltskin has a waiting list right now!), and we were wary of putting out an ad for someone to watch our infant daughter.  Fortunately, the childcare gods smiled upon us, and someone we know was able to step in.

Fortunately, we didn’t face the added obstacle of being unable to afford safe, secure childcare. If we failed to find childcare, we wouldn’t be facing hunger, potential homelessness, or any other malady as a result.  Some women, however, aren’t so fortunate.

In fact, with the cost of childcare being more than college tuitionin most states (New York included), there are many women struggling to find safe, affordable childcare all over New York and the nation.  This phenomena forces low-income women to choose between paying the bills and leaving their child with someone who they may not trust completely; it forces families to make tough decisions on whether it’s worth it to pay for daycare, or forego the additional income; and it most certainly contributes to the persistent wage gap for women in this country, especially women of color.

The legislature hasn’t done much with childcare incentives.  There are some, but more needs to be done.  In the past, the OCFS commissioner has taken the position that the State cannot afford to put any more money into child subsidies, saying the money just wasn’t there.  New York should not only be prioritizing these subsidies, but we should also be incentivizing private businesses to offer childcare costs as a fringe benefit.

Childcare is an economic issue. Women and families with reliable childcare means less reliance on public assistance, more money to spend in local shops, a reduction of the effects of poverty on children, and it interrupts the cycle of poverty from continuing into future generations.

In short, it’s about time that we got serious about addressing childcare access; a failure todo so is a failure to invest in our future economic success.

 

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