Home System concept America’s child care system needs a push from Congress

America’s child care system needs a push from Congress


The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the critical role our child care system plays in the lives of working families and in our economy. The current challenges of working nationwide are, in part, due to families struggling to find quality and affordable child care options for their children.

This is especially true for active single parents. A parent unable to work due to childcare issues has a profound impact on the financial well-being of families and the bottom line of businesses. In short, the lack of affordable, quality child care is a threat to our current and future economic security.

The Build Back Better law before the US Senate includes a transformative investment in child care and preschool that will expand the reach of these essential programs and help get American parents back to work.

The essential role of family child care is not a new concept for those of us who have served in the military. In the 1980s, the changing makeup of the armed forces to include more couples with families made childcare a matter of military readiness.

The child care system for military families was marred by long waiting lists, serious quality gaps, as well as low salaries and qualifications for teachers and staff. It was evident to military leaders at the time that with the changing face of the military, problems with the child care system would negatively affect the recruitment and retention of troops and national security in general.

In response, Congress passed the Military Child Care Act in 1989, which spurred and invested in much-needed reforms that led to the current system. Today, the military child care system meets national accreditation standards, offers higher salaries to teachers and caregivers, and costs military families less. But there is always room for improvement, which is why the military is constantly assessing the need for child care facilities and making long-term plans to increase capacity.

In turn, Congress includes provisions almost every year in the National Defense Authorization Act and Appropriation Programs to ensure that our military families have access to high-quality child care in high-quality settings. safe environments. When it comes to the health and safety of military children, our job is never done.

Nonetheless, the Military Child Care Act is an example of a time when Congress recognized the essential importance of child care. The Build Back Better Act is the next step in this effort. Child care services are essential for all families but remain inaccessible for too many.

Pennsylvania’s child care system faces many of the same quality, access, and affordability challenges that the military system faced decades ago. Across the Commonwealth of Nations, 57% of children live in child care “deserts”, that is, an area with three or more children per licensed child care window, and only 42% of child care providers meet high quality standards. Low salaries and lack of benefits for daycare teachers are causing a staff shortage crisis that affects most providers and contributes to more than 25,000 children waiting for care in Pennsylvania. Where quality care is available, it is often too expensive for working families – costing an average of $ 11,500 for infant care.

The Build Back Better proposal would provide larger subsidies to help working families pay for care. This would stabilize child care providers and strengthen the supply of quality programs by ensuring payment rates that reflect real costs and ensure a living wage for female child care teachers. Like the military child care system, Build Back Better would use grants to quality accredited child care providers in child care deserts to operate without depending on registration or registration. attendance, while subsidizing parents based on income level.

Build Back Better would also increase the availability of high quality preschools in Pennsylvania for more than 200,000 students. This would scale up a decades-old bipartisan goal of fully funding our national pre-K program.

Just as Congress has embraced child care as a critical readiness issue for military families, Congress must act now to strengthen our civilian child care sector by making quality care available and affordable for them. working American families as part of a larger effort to get America back to work.

United States Representative Chrissy Houlahan, an Air Force veteran, represents the 6th Congressional District. Thomas J. Wilson III is a retired Navy Rear Admiral who sits on the Palestinian Authority Executive Advisory Board of the nonprofit: Mission: Readiness – Military Leaders for Kids.