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Child Care

Child Care Workers Still Not Earning What They're Worth

Child care workers’ wages have barely grown over the past 25 years, and are among the lowest of all occupations, according to a report released today by the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment. The report, Worthy Work, STILL Unlivable Wages: The Early Childhood Workforce 25 Years after the National Child Care Staffing Study, found that the average hourly wage for child care workers in 2013 was $10.33, which was just 1 percent higher than in 1997 after adjusting for inflation.

According to the report, preschool teachers earn slightly higher wages than child care workers—$15.11 an hour on average—and these wages have grown by 15 percent since 2013 after adjusting for inflation. Yet preschool teachers still earn less than kindergarten teachers (who earn an average hourly wage of $25.40) as well as about 80 percent of other occupations. This difference in salaries is not completely explained by a difference in education levels. While preschool teachers with a bachelor’s degree earn more than preschool teachers with only an associate’s or high school degree, they still earn less than kindergarten teachers with a bachelor’s degree. Read more »

Putting a Value on Caregiving

Everyone knows that raising children is pricey—the USDA estimates it costs nearly $250,000 to raise one child to adulthood (not even counting college!).  But what you might not know is how much all the time and effort parents put in to childrearing is worth to our economy. This is because the value of unpaid caregiving and childrearing—the lion’s share of which is done by women—is largely unrecognized and rarely quantified. Read more »

Turning the Corner on Child Care Assistance — But Still A Long Way to Go

Families in thirty-three states were better off—having greater access to child care assistance to help pay for care and/or receiving greater benefits from assistance—in February 2014 than in February 2013 under one or more key child care assistance policies, according to a new report by the National Women’s Law Center. The report, Turning the Corner: State Child Care Assistance Policies 2014, also found that families in thirteen states were worse off under one or more of these policies in February 2014 than in February 2013.

This year is the second year in a row in which the situation for families improved in more states than it worsened. And it represents a turnaround from the previous two years, when the situation worsened for families in more states than it improved. However, the improvements states made between 2013 and 2014 were generally modest and families still lack the help they need to afford reliable, good-quality care. Read more »

Instability at Work Wreaks Havoc on Moms and Children

Have you ever heard of “clopening?” It’s when a worker has to close up the shop, store, or restaurant where they work late at night and then report for an early-morning shift just a few hours later. Stressful scheduling like clopening frequently occurs when employers use scheduling software designed to maximize profits—often at the expense of working mothers and their children. This week, the New York Times featured a front-page profile of Jannette Navarro, a mom who works as a barista at a Starbucks in New York City. Jannette’s story shows how the scheduling practices of major chains are unsustainable for moms who need child care, as well as highly detrimental to their children, who bear the brunt of a lack of stability.

The challenges for Jannette Navarro and many women like her begin with the scheduling software many companies use to determine employees’ shifts based on how much business they anticipate. This software enables companies to increase their profits by reducing labor costs, but it works, as the New York Times calls it, by “redistributing some of the uncertainty of doing business from corporations to families.” Jannette typically received her always-changing schedule just three days in advance, leaving very little time to arrange child care for her 4-year-old son, Gavin. While Gavin could attend a preschool program during the day, shifts early in the morning or later in the evening forced Jannette to scramble to get a friend or relative to take care of him—and Gavin’s child center is not open on weekends. Furthermore, Jannette worried about losing access to child care because of her work schedule, since Gavin’s eligibility depended on her working a minimum number of hours, and she was always at risk of not getting enough. Read more »

Lesson Learned: States’ Actions on Child Care and Early Learning Show Congress How It’s Done

On the child care and early education front, there have been some critical steps in the right direction in Washington – introduction of the Strong Start for America’s Children Act, Senate passage of a bill to reauthorize the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG), and President Obama’s commitment to expanding access to early education. But there’s still more work to do to get legislation passed and new investments approved at the federal level. As members of Congress head home for their month-long recess, they should take the opportunity to see what is happening in their own states, many of which have been leading the way to make high-quality child care and early education programs more available and more responsive to families’ needs.

We’ve just released a new summary highlighting some key examples of states’ progress on early care and education in 2014. More than half of states took at least some steps forward on early care and education – increasing funding, redesigning policies to expand access, launching pilot programs, or improving child care tax credits.

Here are some examples of the creative approaches and strong commitments we’re seeing: Read more »

Too Much At Risk: Ryan Poverty Plan Puts Children Needing Early Learning at Risk

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) released his plan to combat poverty this morning. It flies in the face of the strong support that the public has expressed for increasing investments in early learning. Read more »

Can Your Family Live on the Minimum Wage? Mine Can't.

Today is July 24th – five years to the day since the federal minimum wage last went up. At $7.25 per hour, the current minimum wage typically leaves a full-time worker with just $77 per week to spend after accounting for housing costs and taxes. To shed light on what that kind of income really means for working families, advocates across the country, including NWLC, are promoting the “Live the Wage” challenge. From today through July 30, participants in the challenge will attempt to live on a minimum wage budget – just $77 to cover food, transportation, and other expenses for the entire week.

The Live the Wage challenge presents an important opportunity to grasp the daily struggles facing low-wage workers, and I hope huge numbers participate. But for me, I know taking the challenge means failure on the very first day. That’s because I’m a new mom, just recently back at work, and I have a staggering new expense in my weekly budget: child care. Read more »

Even Presidents' Children Need Child Care

Parents across America think and talk about child care every day. It isn’t every day, though, that the President, Vice President, First Lady, and former Speaker of the House all talk about child care—but that’s exactly what they all did at yesterday’s White House Summit on Working Families. They shared their own past experiences struggling to work while ensuring their children were well cared for. Michelle Obama spoke about the time years ago (before entering the White House) when her carefully constructed balance between work and family fell apart when her trusted child care provider left to find a better-paying job. Nancy Pelosi reminisced about her experiences raising five young children born six years apart. The speakers went on to emphasize the need to help other parents—especially those dealing with much more challenging circumstances than their own—find and afford high-quality child care.

At the Summit, a broad range of policy makers, business leaders, workers, and advocates—including National Women’s Law Center Co-President Nancy Duff Campbell, who spoke on a panel on caregiving—highlighted how high-quality child care and early education benefits all of us. It enables parents to get and keep a job and work with peace of mind that their children are in safe, nurturing settings. It enables children to learn and grow and prepares them for success in school and in life. It gives businesses more loyal, more productive employees, which boosts profits. All of these benefits combine to produce a stronger economy, now and in the future. Read more »

Parents in Low-Wage Jobs Share Their Struggles Finding Child Care and Making Ends Meet

Women make up 76 percent of workers in the 10 largest low-wage occupations and they shoulder the lion’s share of caregiving responsibilities for children. Yet working parents in low-wage jobs – most of whom are women – face significant obstacles to securing child care that is stable, high-quality, and affordable. The Ms. Foundation is supporting an effort by six worker justice organizations – Adhikaar for Human Rights and Social Justice, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, the Garment Worker Center, the Retail Action Project and Center for Frontline Retail, and Restaurant Opportunities Centers (ROC) United – and the National Women’s Law Center to examine the working conditions in low-wage jobs that make it so difficult to arrange child care.

Together, we’re releasing a preliminary report with survey and focus group findings from participatory research conducted by the worker justice organizations that illuminate these challenges – along with preliminary ideas about where we go from here. Read the report here. Read more »

Addressing the Challenges of Child Care

As the White House Summit on Working Families draws near, we’re looking forward to this opportunity to highlight not only how crucial child care is to the success of working parents but also the challenges parents — particularly low-income parents — face in finding and affording high-quality care. 

While parents are at work, they think about how their kids are doing. They need the peace of mind that comes with knowing that their children are in a safe, nurturing environment. They need to know that their children are developing the social and learning skills that they need to be successful in school and in life. In short, they need high-quality child care. Yet many parents cannot afford it. Full-time child care for one child can average $4,000 to $16,000 a year [PDF], depending on where the family lives, the age of the child, and the type of care. 

The cost of child care is especially burdensome for parents working low-wage jobs. Nearly one in five working mothers with very young children work in low-wage jobs and about one-third of these mothers are poor. These low-wage workers not only lack the resources to afford high-quality early learning programs but often have unstable and unpredictable schedules or work during nights and weekends. Read more »