Jessica Sager, on the Future of Childcare

Konstanze Frischen
Sep 12, 2019 · 3 min read

Hi, I’m Jessica, creator of: All Our Kin — we’re transforming childcare in the U.S. by giving power, tools, and voice to home-based childcare providers. These women are the first teachers of so many of our children. They must be honored, paid decently, and supported as educators and as business people.

More about the issue: People think learning magically begins at the age of 3. But actually, between 0 and 3, all foundations get laid — for cognitive and social emotional skills, empathy, executive functioning. Yet we don’t have a functioning childcare system. And we do nothing to systematically support families with infants and toddlers, particularly those facing the greatest challenges — parents who work non-standard hours or multiple jobs.

10 years ago, I said: The childcare system is broken: It doesn’t work for children, families, or early child educators. How can All Our Kin connect to each of these educators to give them the tools they need to succeed? How can we — a small non-profit — go from neighborhood to neighborhood to put support structures in place?

Now I say: A broken system implies a system. But there isn’t one. Yes, All Our Kin keeps doing direct service work. But that’s not enough. We will train lots of other nonprofits, and change policy, so that investing in, supporting, and valuing early care and education across all settings becomes the norm.

How to get unstuck: Two things. First, value caregivers as educators who — like K-12 teachers — not only do wonderful, important work but who are also entrepreneurs and economic drivers. Second, we’re stuck in a gender divide. Too many people still believe women should be at home with their children, that something is wrong with childcare, which flies in the face of the lived reality of almost every family.

What people aren’t talking about but should be: How incredibly expensive childcare is — it’s among the top three household expenses, sometimes as much as a mortgage, certainly more than state college tuition in most states.

On my bookshelf: The Nickel Boys, by Colson Whitehead. It’s a story about what it means to live by your values, in the face of injustice, cruelty, and the struggle to survive. Every human being should read this book.

Advice for young adults: Use your time to get to know the world around you, get to be friends with people who are different, and explore many jobs and subjects. You’ll have all these late-night conversations that will solidify friendships, push your thinking, spark new ideas, and ultimately, form the foundation of the person you’ll become.

A changemaker who inspired me: My mom. She was a single mom, a civil rights lawyer — and an amazing storyteller. She would come home every day and tell me the stories of her cases over dinner. I grew up listening to people fighting for the rights of others. That shaped me!

In my free time I’m obsessed with fiction. And with exercise. I used to do yoga, but now it’s kickboxing. There’s nothing better to restore your equilibrium and get ready for the day!

Next for this series, I’m tagging: Kathryn Hall-Trujillo. I got to know Mama Kat — as she is called by her many friends and admirers — through Ashoka. She is transforming outcomes for mothers and children across the globe. She inspires me and I have learned so much from her.

Learn more about Jessica and All Our Kin here and here. And follow along on Twitter @JessicaSagerAOK and @AllOurKin. Follow Ashoka here or via Twitter @AshokaUS . Below is a picture of Jessica and her daughter. The picture above features child care educator Gamila Elbashir, hosting parents and AOK staff at a Mother’s Day breakfast.

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