In Blog: Factually Speaking

When Facebook was new, it seems like I posted all the time. For some reason I relished sharing everything back in the early days, like Laura Millard Ross “Is eating an incredible sandwich at Wendy’s….who knew???” or “Is cleaning and listening to the Bangles. #ManicMonday.”

Over time, I’ve become a bit more selective about what I put online. I’m sure my friends on social media appreciate the fact that I’m not shining a light on every mundane detail of my day—although they’d probably say I could continue to pare down the pictures of my dog.

What I do share these days are the things that are most important to me. Issues that directly affect my family, our community and our world.

Because I work at the League, a lot of those issues are things I read about on the job every day. Our analysts are constantly working to evaluate policies and programs that can help all Michiganders thrive, and I want to make sure others can learn as much as I have about how we can build a stronger state.

Recently I shared a link to the League’s page on child care issues, and it clearly struck a chord with my friends. Several people shared and commented on the post, some sent me private messages, opening up about some really tough issues.

Here are just a few of the comments:

This is one of those things that I am so passionate about… There are times that I cannot fathom certain families’ situations when it comes to day care and or child care coverage.”

“I have been talking about this to anyone who will listen for years. Families have to make really tough decisions because of the cost of child  care. A lot of times the cost of child care prevents one parent from pursuing higher education or a career. It definitely has a negative impact on the economic status of families and communities. The impact is much greater than people realize.”

“I could go on another rant about families that have to settle for low-quality care, which impacts the trajectory of the child’s success.”

As a parent myself, I know firsthand the struggles of finding decent, affordable child care. The cost of our child’s center was more than our monthly mortgage payment and some months it was tough to make ends meet. We talked about trying to find something less expensive, but encountered either long waitlists or care that was simply not up to our (relatively low) standards. We just held our breath and waited for kindergarten.

Not all families have enough wiggle room in their budgets to make that decision.

The cost of infant care in Michigan is around $10,000 a year. People working a full-time, minimum wage job earn about $19,000 annually. A single parent who needs to pay for rent and other necessities cannot possibly do it on those wages.

There’s help out there, of course, but it’s not nearly enough. Of all the parents who are eligible for subsidized child care in Michigan, only 13.9% actually receive assistance. Four out of 10 people in Michigan live in “child care deserts,” and parents who work nights, weekends or on varied schedules find it extremely difficult to find child care. Plus, despite the high cost for parents, child care providers are some of the lowest paid workers in the state.

Our senior policy analyst Pat Sorenson recently authored a report that highlights some of the opportunities Michigan has when it comes to making affordable child care more accessible for families. Leaders now understand that access to high-quality child care is important for children and families, but it also helps business owners attract and retain workers and improves the overall economy. In 2014, Congress reauthorized the Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG) that would improve child care around the nation, but unfortunately the legislation came without much new funding. In March of 2018, Congress approved a $2.37 billion increase in CCDBG funding, which means Michigan federal child care funding will be boosted by $62.8 million each year. This is great news and certainly a step in the right direction for our kids.

But from 2003 to 2015, there was a major decline—78%— in federal and state spending on child care, meaning thousands of kids didn’t have access to the care they needed. Right now, average annual child care costs in Michigan rival annual university tuition and mortgage payments. So while the CCDBG funds can make a major difference, we’re digging our state out of a pretty deep hole, and we need more investment from both the federal and state levels if we truly want to improve things.

Take a look at the report, Baby Steps: More investments needed to make child care work for more families and children, to see the League’s recommendations for child care, the history on CCDBG funding and Michigan’s investments in child care.

And if you want to make a difference, consider contacting me to share your family’s child care story. There are lots of ways to share, from a video to an anonymous blog post. Policymakers care about your experiences, and we can help them see just how many barriers kids face to getting high-quality care.

At the very least, you can share some of the League’s affordable child care information on Facebook or Twitter. I promise I won’t judge you if it’s posted alongside a cat meme or a description of last night’s dinner 😉

 

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