The Healthy Families Act has been introduced in Congress every year since 2004, and every year it has failed to gain traction. But advocates for the bill think that this is their year, and they have some reason to be optimistic.
As a longtime advocate for quality child care, I was heartened to hear President Obama’s forceful words on the matter during his State of the Union address. It occurred to me that it had been more than 40 years since a U.S. president had so visibly addressed the issue—and on that occasion, the message had been very different.
“It’s time we stop treating child care as a side issue, or a women’s issue, and treat it like the national economic priority that it is for all of us,” Obama said Tuesday night.
“The tax code today is stacked in favor of people who make money off of money and against those who make money off of hard work,” Rep. Chris Van Hollen said in a speech this week.
The bipartisan reauthorization of the Child Care and Development Block Grant program will make overdue improvements to a key child-care subsidy program—but it may not do much to ease the crisis of child care affordability in the United States.
Many discussions of Debra Harrell, the South Carolina mother who was jailed for “abandoning” her 9-year-old daughter at a park, fail to mention how limited child-care options are for low-income parents, especially those who are single.
The Helping Working Families Afford Child Care Act, introduced by Sens. Patty Murray, Kirsten Gillibrand, Jeanne Shaheen, and Barbara Boxer, would increase the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit by nearly three times the current maximum benefit, and would close a loophole that leaves many low-income families ineligible.
Child-care agencies that contract with the state will now have to ensure that children are not pressured into participating in religious worship or instruction.
The media has recently latched on to the idea of the “teen mom,” elevating her to star status—both in dramas and on reality TV. These shows feature teen pregnancy, but they do so in an unrealistic way that fetishizes and glamorizes it. The stories of the girls I spoke with at The Care Center are much different from the ones shown in half-hour snippets on TV and splashed across tabloid magazines.
If we still need more evidence that reproductive freedom is an economic issue, the challenge of affording child care is ripe for discussion.