On February 7, 2023, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) held a rally to shed light on the child care crisis. Along with several other senators, representatives, and guest speakers, Murray highlighted the importance of rebuilding the infrastructure of our child care system, and the steps President Biden should take in order to mitigate and solve this crisis. Senator Murray and her colleagues recommended that more funding, recognition, and policy be implemented, ideally creating a not only affordable but also accessible child care system for all.
The speakers noted that child care is understaffed and inaccessible: around 51% of the nation live in child care deserts. Moreover, even if families are fortunate enough to find child care availability, the cost is overwhelming. For the average household, child care costs can be as high as 20% of the family’s income. During the rally, speakers provided research showing that the brain develops most rapidly from ages zero to four. Thus, disadvantages that stem from poor child care during these early years are difficult to overcome, and often perpetuate generational poverty and disparities. Additionally, Murray’s rally called attention to the economic impacts of a nation with a child care crisis. More and more parents are forced to leave their jobs or reject promotions due to lack of child care- posing direct negative consequences to the workforce and economy.
Further exacerbating the issue, the majority of child care providers aren’t making livable wages and are struggling to keep their doors open. Employees are leaving child care everyday, and the child care workforce is largely made up of women, thus perpetuating the gender pay gap. Moreover, more women feel the responsibility to leave their careers to care for their children than men, impeding their success in the workforce. The future of the nation’s workforce depends upon child care being an accessible resource.
Senator Murray advocates for passage of her Child Care for Working Families Act. In addition, there should be more investments and child care policies in order to resolve the poor wages, high program costs, and general lack of services. As representative Sheila Jackson Lee stated, the nation can be judged based upon its treatment of its youngest and oldest age groups. Sadly, without child care reform, Senator Murray and her colleagues warn we will fail our youngest generation and will test the state of the nation.
By Olivia LaMarco, Policy Intern