As Washington wrangles over spending, how can philanthropy advocate for family child care? – Inside philanthropy
Child care and kindergarten have been central parts of the Biden administration’s ambitious infrastructure package, and as lawmakers cut proposals and defend high costs and fiscal responsibility, it’s easy to lose sight of what is at stake.
Those who have worked in early childhood education (ECE) for years trying to fix our failing system understand the opportunity presented by the administration’s proposals. Jessica Sager, co-founder and CEO of All Our Kin, has made family child care the center of her work since she was in law school. All Our Kin trains and supports family daycare educators across the country. Over the past two decades, All Our Kin has not only helped build and professionalize the child care industry; it has increased its visibility and helped give it a voice.
Family day care centers run by home educators (mostly women) is an approach that often receives less attention than other early care options, but it provides valuable support to families and communities. These small home-based programs are the main source of care for young children in many parts of the country, including many low-income communities. Early childhood experts believe that family day care educators will play a critical role in the future, as a consensus is formed for the development of a quality national early childhood care and education system.
Philanthropy has helped support the work of All Our Kin and expand its reach, including regional funders like the Robin Hood Foundation and the Lone Pine Foundation, and national funders like Pritzker Children’s Initiative, Imaginable Futures and Valhalla Charitable Foundation (see list of supporters here).
Sager believes that philanthropy has a key role in creating an infrastructure for early care in the United States. “I am optimistic that with the inspiration of these two groups, we will eventually have government funding to build a sustainable and viable child care system.”
“An impossible choice”
Jessica Sager went to law school to advocate for children, and while she was there, the Clinton administration introduced the 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act. Social assistance recipients were required by law to work if they wanted to continue receiving benefits.
“The new law required parents to enter the workforce very quickly or risk losing their benefits,” Sager said. âSingle mothers were faced with an impossible choice between jeopardizing the well-being of their children economically or jeopardizing their well-being through lack of care, as it was immediately evident that our child care system had failed. nothing in place to meet demand. ”
At the time, Sager was researching with a local advocacy group, and she began interviewing parents and caregivers around New Haven, Connecticut, about the impact of the new welfare rules. âWe met parent after parent, mostly mothers, who were like, ‘You ask me to go to a minimum wage job where I have to take a two hour bus each way each day, and you don’t give me the means. to make sure my young children are safe and taken care of. How can I do this? ‘ Sager said. âThe idea that women in poverty somehow lacked the resources or the knowledge to make the best decisions for their families was so pernicious and troubling to us. “
Sager decided she had to do something, and she teamed up with a group of other advocates. “We said, ‘we bet there are mothers and caregivers in neighborhoods in New Haven and across the country who just need the training and support to be able to provide the care children need to be successful.” she said, “If we could help them do that, other parents could make different choices about where to go to work and feel good about the way their children are being looked after.”
What started as a âlaboratory schoolâ to prepare and support caregivers has grown into a national organization. Today, All Our Kin works with 1,100 family caregivers in Connecticut and New York. The organization offers family care educators a variety of tools, including training in child health, safety and development, on-site coaching, licensing information, and connecting with the wider community, to both the professional community as well as schools and other local institutions. The non-profit organization also helps family daycare educators advocate for system change at the local, state, and federal levels. The All Our Kin model is widely recognized and it plays an advisory role with partner organizations across the country.
Sager believes that home child care is undervalued in part because of a persistent stereotype about who home child care educators are. âWe still meet him; fortunately, it’s not as universal as it used to be, âshe said. âIt’s an ugly, racist, sexist, xenophobic stereotype. This fits very closely with the stereotype of the welfare queen: the black or brunette woman who is lazy, who exploits the children in her care, who does not really commit to educating the children and does not have them. skills or aptitudes to do so. In fact, what you have are heroic women, many of whom are black and brunette, stepping up to meet a desperate need for childcare and providing quality, caring, caring, culturally appropriate care. This is what we see every day. “
“The work of God”
Early childhood education has been in the spotlight nationwide since the onset of the pandemic, which shone the spotlight on a long-developing child care crisis. Many facilities are struggling to survive as they face the costs and labor shortages associated with COVID, creating a growing number of child care deserts across the country. Meanwhile, high fees make childcare costs increasingly prohibitive for many families.
The Biden administration has recognized this crisis and made early care and education a centerpiece of its infrastructure plan. The plan would limit child care costs to seven percent of family income for most families, for example, and increase the salaries of early childhood educators, currently among the lowest in the country. Whether or not President Joe Biden’s agenda survives the legislative wood chipper remains to be seen; At the time of this writing, paid family leave has been reduced, but subsidies for childcare and universal pre-kindergarten remain for now. Conservatives on both sides of the political aisle continue to cut corners, or refuse to support it at all. Meanwhile, children’s advocates, many of them from the philanthropic world, are stepping forward to defend the measures.
In a Washington post article titled âUnless Congress Acts, Only the Rich Will Be able to afford child care,â Elliot Haspel, program manager for education policy and research at the Robins Foundation, warned against the consequences if childcare measures were removed from the package. “There is a limited window to build a new system where the old one failed: it cannot be allowed to close on the outstretched fingers of the parents and children of the nation,” he wrote.
Advocates like Haspel and Sager would like the United States to treat early care as a public good, as many other countries do, rather than as a private matter for families to work out on their own. In a recent editorial, Sager described the righteous domino effect that Biden’s plans would trigger if implemented: âParents have financial support so their children can be taken care of. Educators are supported to grow as professionals. And children are the ultimate beneficiaries.
At the macro level, DC’s ongoing feuds over Biden’s spending plans, including their childcare components, underscore how important it is for philanthropy to rely on advocacy, even if it means funding that is uncomfortably close to “politics”. As Sager pointed out, national philanthropy to ‘spur innovation and create movement’ is essential, which means supporting organizations that specifically fight for child care as well as those advocating for social spending. more robust at all levels. It can also mean democracy work and civic engagement – to ensure that those most in need of child care have some sort of voice in these debates.
President Biden recently observed that early educators do “the work of God,” as Sager pointed out. If this is God’s work, shouldn’t we be doing more to support it?