Too Many Barriers to Child Care: ‘Universal child care would create safety and opportunities for families.’

When I had an active ACS case, I had homemaking services—this involved a lady coming into my home from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm and monitoring my children. I had no privacy. The homemaker would watch and feed my children. If I had to step out, she would accompany me. It was outrageous. I didn’t feel like I was the parent because she did everything for me. I would’ve rather had child care without someone in my home intruding and controlling everything. 

When my case closed, I was given an ACS voucher for child care—but I wasn’t made aware that my child care voucher would only work until my kids hit the age of five (school age). Now my children are older and I continue to struggle with child care. I’ve applied for child care in any way I can, but it has not been accessible. I applied through HRA (Human Resources Administration), but was denied due to the fact that I’m a Supplemental Security Income recipient and I don’t get cash. I tried going through ACS, but that did not work either. They are unreachable—and when you finally reach them, they say that the only way to access their child care is if you have an open case. I tried paying out of pocket, but since the pandemic, child care hours are often limited to after school hours, closing at 6:00 pm. I hear from other parents about how hard it is to obtain child care, too. Some parents have to pay friends to provide child care, but the friends become unreliable. 

There are too many barriers for parents to access child care and it impacts families. Lack of child care prevents me from getting a job to progress in life. It’s important to have child care after hours for those parents who can only get night or afternoon shifts, because in reality those are the shifts that are most available to families seeking work. Lack of child care also limits my schooling—I can’t get my full education because I have to leave early, rushing out to get my kids from school. 

It’s important for school-age children to have child care unaffiliated with ACS so that families don’t have to experience family policing systems. Children need not only an educational environment, but also a developmental environment in which they can learn social and emotional skills. Parents want to keep our children bright and safe and we want them to have stability. We don’t want our children to be left alone at home or with poor caregivers. 

Families also need respite care so that parents can recover from stress and deal with emergencies. There is so much going on in our lives and sometimes parents need a break, but can’t get one because they don’t have a reliable person to take care of their children. This can cause parents to rely on an abusive partner or go back to domestic violence relationships. 

As a parent contributor at Rise, I am advocating for all families to have access to universal child care. Child care should not be limited to what the government and politicians see fit—it should be accessible and meet the real needs of parents and children. I’ve attended rallies for the child care campaign because I believe in this work. Attending a child care rally opened my eyes to how we as parents need to be more involved. It showed me that as a united front we can move forward in achieving our goals for universal child care. Parents need to use their voices to express their experiences because the only way we’re going to make a change or impact is to advocate for ourselves.

We need policymakers to understand that there are a lot of people in need of child care—we need to hold them accountable for how the lack of child care affects parents and children of all backgrounds. We shouldn’t have to face all these barriers and work this hard or be surveilled by the family policing system just to get child care. Child care should not be separated or limited based on income, ethnic, social or cultural backgrounds or immigration status. Universal child care should be for everyone. I truly believe that if families have universal child care without all the barriers and stipulations, we will create a safer environment for families and children. 

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