5 Reasons Child Care Is This Year’s Best Mother’s Day Gift

By Alana Eichner, Program Assistant

Mother’s Day is fast approaching and this year, instead of flowers, chocolates, or a card, we know what many mothers really need: high-quality, affordable child care. Unfortunately, this requires much more than a trip to the card store. High-quality child care supports children’s development during the critical early years and allows parents to work, yet it is unavailable to millions of families across the country. Here are five facts that break down the child care challenges facing working moms and make clear why we need to increase investments in our earliest learners right away.

1) Child care costs are unaffordable for too many families and have been rising in recent years.
In over half of the states, the cost of infant care is more than in-state tuition at a public four-year institution. For families with two children, child care costs can range from half as much as rent to three times as much as rent in some areas of the country. The financial burden of high child care costs is especially heavy for workers in low-paying jobs. In some states, a minimum-wage worker would have to devote her entire earnings from working full time from January through September to cover the cost of infant child care.

2) We’re helping fewer and fewer families with these child care costs.
Families — particularly low-income families — need help with the enormous costs of child care, but most are not able to receive any assistance because of inadequate federal and state investments. In 2012, fewer than 1 in 6 children eligible for child care assistance received it. The number of children receiving CCDBG-funded child care assistance is at a 16-year low, with nearly 364,000 fewer children receiving it in 2014 than did in 2006. Low income eligibility limits in many states and waiting lists in over two-fifths of states in 2015 mean that many families don’t receive the child care assistance they need.

3) The reauthorization of the Child Care and Development Block Grant could help families — but not without additional resources.
In November 2014, by a wide bipartisan margin, Congress voted to reauthorize the Child Care and Development Block Grant, the major child care assistance program in the United States. While the new law includes provisions that could enhance the safety and health of children in child care, improve the quality of care, and make it easier for families to get and keep assistance, the reauthorization was not accompanied by the funding that would allow states to achieve these goals. A serious lack of resources means that states will have to choose between meeting new requirements and cutting slots from their child care programs, putting more children in danger of losing care.

4) Families are struggling to pay for child care, but child care providers are also struggling.
When we talk about the unaffordability of child care, we can’t leave child care providers out of the conversation. Child care workers remain among the lowest paid occupations, with an average hourly wage of just $10.33 in 2013. Those who take care of young children must also be able to support themselves and their own families. Increasing the amount of child care assistance to families is an important step toward paying providers more livable salaries — and salaries that are high enough to attract and retain well-qualified providers.

5) Now is the time for state and federal policymakers to prioritize investments in child care — and candidates too.

In the coming months, members of Congress will be considering appropriations bills to decide how to allocate resources at the federal level. Child care should be at the top of the priority list during the appropriations process this year. On the state level, almost half of all governors mentioned child care or early learning in their State of the State addresses. As state budgets are debated this spring, state policymakers will have the opportunity to put money behind those words and invest in the futures of young children.

Candidates too should make child care a top issue. Any candidate that is serious about supporting working families and strengthening our economy should prioritize and promote affordable, high-quality child care, and understand that a large-scale solution is needed to both support the growth and development of young children and allow parents to work.

Policymakers and candidates: let’s give hard-working moms something to truly celebrate this Mother’s Day.

This post originally appeared on the blog of the National Women’s Law Center.

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