Yesterday, a story ran in the NY Times entitled, "Aid for Child Care Drops When It Is Needed Most. This article told the story of stuggling families forced to make an extremely difficult decision between their need to work and their desire to keep their children safe and cared for. The cost of childcare varies across the country, anywhere from 27% of a family's median income to 67%. The average cost of full-day care for an infant represents about 41% of the median income for single mothers.
The cost of childcare is expensive and quality childcare comes at an even higher premium. For the working poor, both cost and access are an issue, seeing as many low-income individuals do not work the traditional 9-5 job when many childcare centers and family based child care operate. In the 90's, during the federal welfare overhaul, there was a recognition that childcare is essential to helping low-income women work. Unfortunately, as the federal government and states face tough fiscal times, childcare subsidies are being cut.
As this article so vividly portrays, when families are forced to choose between work and childcare, they place their children in less than ideal sitautions. Investing in childcare subsidies would not only allow parents to work, but it would allow children to be in a stable environment where they will ideally be developmentally stimulated, learn and grow. Cutting these subsidies is extremely short sited and has many long term implications for both families and children.
Unfortunately, as I suspected, the majority of the public comments on this NY Times article questioned a woman's decision to have a child in the first place, rather than questioning a system that makes it nearly impossible for women and families to work and provide care for their children. The expense of childcare is a universal that most people can commiserate about, regardless of your income level (maybe not the 1%). Rather than judging one another, why not look at ways in which we can improve our underlying systems in order to improve outcomes for working families and children.