Happy International Women’s Day! Since the early 1900s, this day has been observed as a time to celebrate and honor women across the globe and to demand action on behalf of the inequality that still exists.
This year, in recognition of International Women’s Day, the Ms. Foundation for Women released a special report titled More to Do: The Road to Equality for Women in the United States. The report’s three main focuses are on economic justice, reproductive justice, and safety for women, with attention paid to women’s varying experiences across racial identities, socioeconomic statuses, and locations in the United States.
Importantly, the report highlights the massive injustices faced by families, especially women-headed households, trying to pay for child care and by child care workers barely earning enough to survive.
“For low-income women and communities of color, in particular, lack of access to affordable, flexible and quality child care is the biggest impediment to economic security, productivity and advancement. (These groups would benefit most from improvements to the informal child care sector (e.g., in-home and family, friend and neighbor [FFN] care), which is more flexible, affordable and geographically accessible.
Quality child care is important for all children and can contribute to healthier futures for low-income children. Research links early care and education to children’s development in low-income families, including their status upon entry in school and early school progress, with effects continuing through adolescence and early adulthood. Recognizing and treating access to care, including child care, as a collective societal responsibility would be transformative.”
“The perception of child care as “women’s work” predominates, leading to the devaluation of this work and providers’ socioeconomic contributions. Child care providers are among the lowest paid and most vulnerable workers in our economy, whether employed at a center-based facility or self-employed in a home, and experience high turnover rates and lack of career advancement. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 20 of 821 occupations reported by the agency have lower average wages than child care workers. The realities are daunting: One-third of child care workers are self-employed and work out of their home, and therefore, lack access to unemployment compensation, health insurance, retirement and other benefits. Few of those employed by others are granted sick days or paid leave. Although unionization has made some inroads, in-home child care providers are isolated from professional communities and support and often cut off from opportunities for advancement, such as training on child development, health and safety or small business management skills.”
While the report goes on to highlight Connecticut as one of the five “best” states for women overall, particularly with regard to wages and health, it notes that child care costs, which average $12,000 a year, remain a significant issue and threat to women’s economic justice.
The information presented in this report is sobering at the very least. However, we see the report as a success for two reasons. For one, we are glad to see attention brought to the issues surrounding child care, families, and child care workers in our country. We hope this report, research-based and compelling, will heighten national awareness about child care as it relates to poverty and to the status of women. Secondly, we applaud the attention paid to family child care providers and the accessibility, flexibility, and affordability family child care programs often allow families.
While the report importantly highlights the frequent isolation of family child care providers, it also mentions several specific resources that family child care providers would benefit from, such as professional communities and training on child development and business management. All Our Kin is proud to be an organization that provides these very supports for family child care providers, building a strong community of family child care programs and empowered family child care providers who are valued and respected for their important work. On this day, International Women’s Day, we thank and celebrate the hundreds of family child care providers we work with for their labor, their love, and their resiliency.
Note: Images copied from More to Do: The Road to Equality for Women in the United States, Ms. Foundation for Women, 2013.