The childcare system in this country is broken

Jordan Reid is the founding editor of Ramshackle Glam.
Liberal Opinion

Jordan Reid

Author; Founding Editor, Ramshackle Glam
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Two and a half years later, childcare centers are still reeling from COVID-19 and parents are paying the price. A recent report from the Connecticut Association of Human Services revealed that labor shortages, low morale among staff, and rising costs add another burden to families already struggling to make ends meet. Straight Arrow News contributor Jordan Reid found herself involved in the issue on a personal level and argues that childcare should not be a luxury good but a public good:

In my 20s, I briefly worked as the human resources director of a mid-sized law firm. In this capacity I had to do many things I didn’t enjoy — among them instruct professionals twice my age and with vastly more experience on wildly important problems like whether their footwear was acceptable in an office setting (that went over well). But there’s one job I was tasked with that I will never forget: Helping one of the secretarial staff, who had found herself unexpectedly pregnant, figure out what to do next. 

The woman was not married or in a domestic partnership. She didn’t not want the baby, but it certainly hadn’t been planned. I went over the family paid leave policy — I can’t recall exactly what it was, but I want to say it was four weeks of paid leave, which isn’t exactly a moment when most postpartum women feel good and ready to leave their infant and go back to the office — but not working also wasn’t an option. Together, we googled local childcare facilities, and quickly determined that full-time childcare would cost almost exactly the amount of money that she was bringing home after taxes. 

The childcare system in this country is broken. And now, with inflation skyrocketing, it’s about to get worse, if that’s even possible. Childcare facilities all over the country are raising their rates to account for operating costs — food, rent, power, supplies, and salaries — that have gone up 30, 35%. The industry is also suffering from a labor pool that decreased by over 11% during the pandemic, even as 9% of facilities nationwide closed and the median wage of childcare workers hovered at just over $13 an hour.

Childcare workers cannot afford their jobs. Childcare centers cannot afford their facilities. The only solution appears to be raising prices that were already unaffordable for parents in the first place. Mothers have left the work force in droves, accounting for 88% of the jobs lost in the pandemic, and it’s not surprising when you consider that conversation that I had in my office so many years ago. What better options do they have?

It is beyond time that we — voters and our representatives — stop treating childcare like a membership to Equinox — nice for those that can swing it — and start treating it like what it is: A public good, no less essential than a local fire department or public school, and equally deserving of government funding.

In my 20s, I briefly worked as the human resources director of a mid-sized law firm. In this capacity I had to do many things I didn’t enjoy – among them instruct professionals twice my age and with vastly more experience on wildly important problems like whether their footwear was acceptable in an office setting (that went over well) – but there’s one job I was tasked with that I will never forget: Helping one of the secretarial staff, who had found herself unexpectedly pregnant, figure out what to do next. 

The woman was not married or in a domestic partnership. She didn’t not want the baby, but it certainly hadn’t been planned. I went over the family paid leave policy – I can’t recall exactly what it was, but I want to say it was four weeks of paid leave, which isn’t exactly a moment when most postpartum women feel good and ready to leave their infant and go back to the office, but not working also wasn’t an option. Together, we googled local childcare facilities, and quickly determined that full-time childcare would cost almost exactly the amount of money that she was bringing home after taxes. 

She would, in other words, be working for the sole privilege of having someone else watch the child she wanted to be watching. Food and shelter, apparently, would have to be luxuries. 

This is an obviously impossible situation. Impossible. It’s one that countless women have confronted after having a baby – myself included. I was personally lucky enough to work from home at the time when I gave birth to my children, and it was insanely hard, but also an insane privilege, because it was possible – the only one who suffered was me. And I did suffer: From lack of sleep, from lack of community, from the overwhelming guilt anytime I was pulled into a meeting and had to hand my child over to someone to whom I was paying money I didn’t really have. 

The childcare system in this country is broken. And now, with inflation skyrocketing, it’s about to get worse, if that’s even possible. Child care facilities all over the country are raising their rates to account for operating costs – food, rent, power, supplies, and salaries – that have gone up 30, 35 percent. The industry is also suffering from a labor pool that decreased by over 11% during the pandemic, even as 9% of facilities nationwide closed and the median wage of childcare workers hovered at just over $13 an hour.

Childcare workers cannot afford their jobs. Childcare centers cannot afford their facilities. The only solution appears to be raising prices that were already unaffordable for parents in the first place. Mothers have left the work force in droves, accounting for 88% of the jobs lost in the pandemic, and it’s not surprising when you consider that conversation that I had in my office so many years ago. What better options do they have?

It is beyond time that we – voters and our representatives – stop treating childcare like a membership to Equinox – nice for those that can swing it – and start treating it like what it is: A public good, no less essential than a local fire department or public school, and equally deserving of government funding.

 

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