Note: On June 9th, California legislative leaders and Governor Brown reached an agreement in budget conference committee, which includes an investment of hundreds of millions of dollars in the child care system over the next two years. Once the budget is passed by the legislature it will head to Governor Brown's desk for signing.
Gloria Carter has run a home-based daycare in Sacramento County for over 20 years. She provides child care and educational opportunities for the 12 kids in her care with the help of one daycare assistant. And she's seen first-hand the child care crisis both California and the nation are experiencing.
"It's terrible," said Gloria. "Many of the parents of the kids in my care struggle to pay for child care while trying to make ends meet, and when I lose kids in my daycare, my family struggles too."
Far too many working families can't afford care, and family child care providers are dealing with wages so low that they can't afford to keep their home-based daycares open. These problems add up to decreased access to quality, affordable child care and early learning opportunities for our children. But there is a solution: Make an investment in family child care providers to increase families' access to child care.
And with numbers like these, it's clear we need to invest in child care now more than ever.
In 2014, the cost of child care for a preschooler in California was approximately $9,100 in a child care center, and $7,850 in a home-based daycare. And this year, an analysis by the Economic Policy Institute found that it may be cheaper for a California family to send their child to college than to pay for child care for an infant. In fact, California is home to the 11th highest child care costs in the country. Families are struggling to provide for other basic needs like rent and food, because the cost of child care is, on average, a third of their income.
Families, especially low-income parents, rely on family child care providers to care for and teach their children while they work. And when parents can't work because they can't afford care for their children, they struggle to provide for their families.
"A mom of one of my kids couldn't afford child care any longer, so she took her daughter out of my daycare," Gloria recalled. "She reduced her hours at work, which meant reducing her income, so that she only worked when her daughter was in school."
In California, low-income families can apply for child care subsidies to help them afford care for their children. However, many families in need don't have access to the care because there aren't enough slots, and others are just barely over the income threshold to qualify. All too often, families are forced to make tough decisions between paying for care and going to work.
This year, UDW is supporting a major investment in California's child care system via the state budget. A quality investment in child care, including family child care providers, will help ease the financial worries of parents throughout the state. And right now, the best way to do this is to support the Assembly's Early Education Budget, which makes a $618.6 million investment in family child care providers and the child care system.
Among the changes, the proposal will increase subsidy rates, which means family child care providers like Gloria will receive a much needed and deserved increase in their pay -- making it easier for them to afford their work-related expenses and keep their daycares open for business. The proposal will also put more children in the home-based daycares of family child care providers by raising the income threshold parents must meet to qualify for care, and adding thousands of slots for more children.
Investing in family child care providers and increasing access to care is a wise investment to make here in California, and throughout the country.