‘If I had access to child care, I wouldn’t have had an ACS case.’

If it was easy to get child care, many families wouldn’t get an ACS case or have to deal with the family policing system, because they wouldn’t have to leave their children at home. If I had access to child care, I never would have become involved with the family policing system. ACS became involved with my family when I left my younger kids with my 14-year-old child watching them when I went out for an appointment. If I knew that this would get me a case, I would have taken my children with me—however, taking your children to appointments can be very stressful for both parents and children. 

If families had child care, parents wouldn’t have to worry about whether they are going to miss an appointment or miss a job interview because they don’t have anyone to watch their children. If child care was free and accessible, it would be less stressful for families, and that would help with their mental health. If parents have to run to a job interview or appointment, they would not have to worry about whether their children are okay at home.

The only way you can get free child care now is if you get an ACS case or have HRA. Having child care through ACS or affiliated with ACS is not good—when parents know a service is through ACS, they feel scared to ask for help because they feel like they are going to catch a case. If a service is through ACS, I’m not going. 

If child care is affiliated with ACS and you don’t bring your child to child care—maybe because your child is sick or you don’t need to go out that day, the child care providers start watching you and asking questions about why you didn’t bring the child. They are mandated reporters and they watch your every move and get too personal. When you leave your child with a provider through ACS, you wonder how your child is being treated and what questions they are asking them. Also, once you sign the child care forms, they have access to your private information. All of this can make you feel embarrassed, like less than a mother. I want child care providers to trust that parents know what they’re doing and to have conversations before making assumptions. 

With HRA, child care is free for a little while—but because of “means testing,” as soon as you make over the limit, you no longer qualify and it is not free anymore. If you make “too much” money, you have to pay half of your child care. If the community was able to get child care for free, parents wouldn’t have to worry about saving money to pay for half of the cost of child care if they make “extra” money or do overtime at their job.  

The government should invest in child care for families and communities, prioritizing those in low-income communities with high rates of ACS investigations. If our government can use tax money to fund the jail system, they can use it instead to fund free child care for all children. The government can find funding to add jails in all the boroughs—why can’t they fund child care? We don’t need any more jails in the city, we need child care for families! 

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