On Tuesday, February 22, 2022, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra, Gender Policy Council Director Jen Klein, and Deputy Assistant to the President for Economic Mobility Carmel Martin hosted a conversation with parents and their children at the White House to discuss their struggles with finding and affording childcare amid the pandemic.
A major theme of the conversation was child care is ultimately an economic issue and is critical in keeping the economy going. Parents recounted how they were forced to take time off work when the pandemic caused many daycares to close. They emphasized how affordable, reliable, and accessible child care would allow parents to return to work sooner and give them the freedom to pursue jobs that would be impossible to perform without access to daycare. Parents also highlighted how the childcare workforce had to be properly supported to ensure quality care. They argued that while child care costs must be cut for families, wages for childcare workers must be increased. Higher wages would help decrease the high turnover rates for childcare workers and would increase the number of childcare spots available. To do this, the parents noted that government investment was needed.
Secretary Becerra said that the Build Back Better Act would be such an investment, a sentiment echoed by the parents in attendance. Build Back Better would increase the capacity of caregivers to train and pay workers a decent wage. This would ensure workforce stability and that quality people are in the workforce. With greater workforce stability, more families would have access to child care, aiding to address the current inequities that make it difficult for vulnerable families to find child care. Secretary Becerra stated that everyone is entitled to see their children grow up strong and that quality child care was necessary for getting children ready to become the leaders of tomorrow. If Build Back Better were to be passed, then families would have access to the care necessary to give their children an equal opportunity to develop into the next generation of leaders.
As Build Back Better remains stalled, CWLA and other advocates continue to be committed to fighting for legislation that would provide an investment in children and families through childcare.