In summary

California must commit to providing stable solutions that address the needs of vulnerable families and underpaid providers.

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By Micaela Mota

Micaela Mota, a mother of two, is a member of Parent Voices,

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Sandra Saenz, Special to CalMatters

Sandra Saenz is the owner of Anielka’s Family Daycare in Richmond,

Our broken child care system is no longer hidden behind the scenes, blocked by a wall of inequities caused by racism, misogyny and classism. The pandemic made our country face the reality of this broken system and begin to re-imagine it for the better.

Gov. Gavin Newsom and the Legislature now have the opportunity to finalize an equitable state budget that includes increased child care slots, increased provider reimbursement rates, and the waiving of family fees for two years. This is a historic chance to support parents and child care providers alike. 

The needs of parents and those of child care providers often are directly tied to one another. 

Imagine being an essential worker who applied for a voucher to help cover child care costs because you are struggling to even pay your electric bill. Then, after a year of waiting for a slot to open up, you learn that the voucher you received didn’t explain that you must pay a “family fee” for the subsidy. It is gut-wrenching to have to choose between paying for your electricity or covering that fee to your child care provider — who needs the money as much as you do — because if you don’t, you might lose your child care assistance.

Imagine being a child care provider, knowing that the money you are taking from a family — money the state expects them to pay to balance your reduced paycheck — is money they need to keep the lights on at home. Imagine needing that money to keep the lights on at your own home, as well as at your child care business. It is heartbreaking to have to take money from a family living paycheck to paycheck in order to survive on your own paycheck.

This is our story. It is just one of millions — one that is told often but is never truly heard. It is time to demand an end to gut-wrenching and heartbreaking stories like ours, and to re-imagine a child care system that works for all Californians, including the most vulnerable.

According to the California Child Care Resource & Referral Network, 33% of licensed child care centers and 14% of licensed family child care homes in California have closed their doors since the start of the pandemic. While the Legislature and the governor have come to a long-overdue agreement that includes 200,000 child care slots and increases reimbursement rates, fees paid by parents may only be waived for a limited time. This budget is a significant step toward long-term funding solutions proposed in the federal American Families Plan, but it is merely solving a short-term crisis in order to provide immediate relief. As details of the state budget are worked out in coming weeks, we urge our political leaders to re-imagine a long-term system of change for child care needs.

“Love doesn’t pay the bills,” Deborah Corley Marzett of Child Care Providers United said this year at our Stand for Children Day virtual rally. “When you look into the eyes of providers, you see hope, you see strength, you see resilience, but the heart tells another story of struggle and hardship.”

Marzett painted a picture that fits for many child care providers. They are consistently praised for the loving care they give, but without the political will to make long-term changes, such praise is nothing but empty words. Join us in our fight for change. Visit Parent Voices to learn how you can get involved.

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