(WOMENSENEWS)–"You can’t trust everybody with your baby."
I’ll never forget how irritated I’d feel when my sister-in-law would mention this anytime she heard that my daughter would be starting daycare after my maternity leave was over. I understood her view point. Just like any mother, I have the same instinct to want to look after and protect my child with every part of me. Still, I needed to go back to work at some point.
Since all grandparents and in-laws live out of town, daycare was the first choice for our family.
We have a daycare center just around the corner from our home in our quiet little neighborhood, so one day I dropped in for a visit. The sign inside the office area read: "Door is locked for the safety of your children. Please wait for someone to assist you."
I waited patiently for almost five minutes, until finally I decided to give the door knob a twist. To my surprise the door swung open. I heard one of the teachers screaming at a roomful of toddlers to shut up.
I left so fast my head was spinning.
I finally found a daycare center that suited our family’s needs and values and my daughter stayed there for several months. But one day I witnessed the daycare’s co-director spanking a child after his mother left because he wouldn’t stop crying.
My daughter and I left immediately. That was it. I decided to work from home full time. My husband and I have made it work for our household ever since.
Although my sister-in-law’s forewarning held some truth, I still don’t want to count child care out as some horrible experience that no child should have to endure, but the recent events in daycares across the country has been proving her right.
It’s also hard not to notice that the majority of these accounts involve people of color and children of low income single mothers.
But here’s a Thanksgiving treat: Last week the Senate approved a reauthorization bill for the Child Care and Development Block Grant, as EdCentral reported Nov. 17. This means billions of dollars in aid and federal subsidies to low-income families to help them pay for child care. As EdCentral’s policy analyst Clare McCann writes: "It’s a hard-earned victory for advocates of safety and quality in child care; the bill was last reauthorized in 1996, and the current iteration of the law was negotiated over more than a year.
This is the kind of legislative help we need to support and celebrate.
As much as some of us would like to, we can’t be with our children 24/7, but while we’re apart, having safe, reliable care shouldn’t be so hard, especially considering the high cost of daycare these days.
I know I am fortunate to be able to work from home and that some moms out there enjoy flexible work schedules with their employers. But what about women with no partners, no network of supportive family and friends, little education, or even limited work experience?
Federal funding can help of course, but it needs to funnel it to worthy programs. More good news: we have some models.
Neighborhood House in Portland, Ore., is an example.
In a recent phone interview, Executive Director Rick Nitti described the group’s Child Care Improvement Project that fosters training and networks among daycare operators and provides some financial support so low-income families can access good programs.
Why? "Because we know how important child care is for our communities’ workforce," Nitti said.