On Saturday, a story was flagged in social media of a father while working for DoorDash had his van stolen with with his two young children inside. Before going any further, know that thankfully the children were located and reunited.
The location, San Francisco. The time, 8:45 pm. Click here to read full story.
How many stories like this have to happen before Governor Newsom, the California Early Care and Policy Council and our legislative leaders come together and address the crisis of lack of access to child care for working families? It is not to say there are not other important issues. However, if there is not a redirection to making access to child care a TOP priority for immediate action, then everything else too will fail.
The data is overwhelming that over 2.3 million pre-COVID income eligible children had no access to child care. During COVID, with school closures, that number has gone up. The working moms and dads of those children are forced to make tough decisions on how to support the well being of their children, how to pay for necessities such as food, clothing, housing, child care, transportation and more. Even if there is enough money to pay for the above necessities, the crisis that exists with child care, there simply are not enough child care providers. Further, California has never funded access to child care that meets the real needs of working families which is generally more than 3-5 hours per day, is oftentimes after six in the evening and also on weekends.
Pre-COVID, California's lowest income families with an infant or toddler had negligible access to a child care provider. The reason? Based on history and what is proposed in Governor Newsom's 2021-22 budget, funding for more child care slots for working families to access and increasing reimbursement to child care providers simply are not valued.
I don't make the above conclusion lightly. I reflect back on past years of facts and I look at the numbers the governor is proposing to both increase reimbursements to child care providers and increase the number of slots working moms and dads can access for care. The facts are these; 1) the governor cuts between 8,600 to 15,000 slots for working families to access child care, and 2) the governor holds reimbursement rates for child care providers at 2015 levels wherein a provider is reimbursed between $3.20 per hour to roughly $9.50 per hour depending on licensure status. The total number of child care slots being proposed for the over 2.3 million forgotten children, fewer than 68,000.
You are probably thinking, but I heard the governor say that he was increasing access to child care. Yes he did say that. However, he is increasing preschool and transitional kindergarten funding for only programs on school campuses. He is increasing funding for those programs that are from 3 1/2 to 5 hours per day. Finally, he is proposing millions to programs that since 2014 have returned over a hundred million each year in funding because although it may be the governor's priority to fund preschool and transitional kindergarten, it is not the priority of local school districts. Case in point. Last Thursday, Sacramento Unified City School District took action to cut their preschool program.
Now going back to the story that prompted this writing. A working dad that felt forced for whatever reason to take his children with him while he was earning an income. Knowing the data, knowing how few child care providers there are in California and knowing that the child care availability is even less in the evenings and weekends, this should be a top priority for immediate action and funding.
California is better than this. Working moms and dads should have access to child care that supports our 24-hour/7 days per week economy. Child care providers should be valued and reimbursed as an indispensable workforce.