Families of four with incomes of up to $96,300 are eligible for subsidized child care, under new state income limits, and those with incomes under roughly $85,000 will pay no ‘family fees’ for it
Child care providers across California are voting on an agreement some advocates are hailing as “transformative” for the beleaguered industry.
The state has promised and set deadlines to overhaul its reimbursement model for providers of subsidized care, which advocates believe is key to solving the shortage of child care in California.
The state has also agreed to significantly reduce, and in many cases eliminate, the fees that low-income families must pay to receive state-subsidized child care.
In a state where child care for the youngest children typically costs more than $19,000 a year, California provides financial help for some low-income families toward it. Families who make 85 percent of the state median income or below — that’s up to $96,300 pre-tax annually for a family of four — are eligible for subsidized child care, according to the state’s income limits for the current fiscal year.
But the subsidy system doesn’t reach four out of five young California children who qualify for it, The San Diego Union-Tribune found in a January investigation.
And for the low-income families that it does serve, the subsidized care used to come at a hefty price.
Families have had to pay 10 percent of their monthly income as a “family fee” or co-payment for their subsidized child care — as much as $607 a month.
Federal law requires states to charge family fees on a sliding scale for subsidized care. But it leaves it up to states to decide how much and which families to charge.
Advocates for years have criticized California’s fees as inequitable and unaffordable for low-income families, noting that other states charge much less. South Dakota, for instance, charges no more than $82 a month; Oregon charges up to $130 a month and Washington state charges up to $215.
California has used COVID-19 aid to waive family fees since the onset of the pandemic, but before this summer’s budget deal, the fees had been set to return this year.
Read more at sandiegouniontribune.com.
BY JEANNE KUANG
Gabriela Guerrero’s children are all grown and have moved out, but the former stay-at-home mom never stopped raising kids.
The children who attend her home daycare in El Centro, in Imperial County near the Mexico border, are as young as 3 months old. Some are the children of farmworkers who drop them off at Guerrero’s house before their shifts in the pre-dawn hours. Nearly all are from families poor enough to qualify for state subsidies.
Many of the families can’t afford basic needs, Guerrero said, so the 57-year-old makes sure to provide their children with milk, diapers and sometimes clothes.
“I want the families to go to work knowing that (their children are) well taken care of, and they’re being loved and fed correctly,” she said.
Guerrero’s labor of love barely earns her a living. After paying two assistants and other costs, she figures she takes home about $3 or $4 an hour. She takes on credit card debt to keep her business going.
For years family child care providers — the vast majority of them women of color — have said they don’t get paid enough by the state of California to cover the costs of their businesses. Their fight for better pay and benefits, a two-decades-old effort, is reaching a fever pitch in California’s capital this year.
They’re pressing Gov. Gavin Newsom to raise their pay, and they have the Legislature on their side. Lawmakers put $1 billion for raises in their version of a state budget that they passed last week. That funding remains one of the key differences between Newsom and the Legislature as they hammer out a budget deal before July 1 that accounts for an estimated $32 billion deficit.
Read more at calmatters.org.
BY JENNY GOLD
Behind the white iron gate of her Boyle Heights home, Adriana Lorenzo’s concrete courtyard is filled with half a dozen tricycles, a basketball hoop and the melodic cadences of classical music that resonate through the play area. “It keeps the kids happy and calm,” she says.
Lorenzo owns her own child-care program, taking care of 14 children. On a recent Wednesday, she holds baby Elijah, 13 months, close to her chest, swaying back and forth as she brushes the hair from his eyes. Lorenzo has been working since 5 a.m., when she got up to sanitize the bathrooms and cook pancakes and eggs for the children before they began arriving at 6:30 a.m. Her last charge won’t head home until after 5:30 p.m.
She works 13 hours a day, five days a week, wiping tears, kissing owies, teaching the ABCs, and bending over to pick up countless toys. Nearly all her children come from low-income families and qualify for statevouchers that pay for the care. The rate varies by the age of a child, but for a 2-year-old, California pays Lorenzo up to $1,006 per month. After covering all her business expenses, including electricity, supplies, rent, food and the salary of a full-time aide, she says her childcare operation brings in about $1,000 per month.
So at midnight several times a week, she and her husband, who helps with the business, head out in their truck for a second shift: delivering food and packages for Amazon Flex.
California’s voucher rates are at the heart of a battle brewing over how much the state pays home child-care providers like Lorenzo, who run day care programs out of their homes. Such programs are licensed by the state and operators can care for up to 14 children at a time, sometimes some as young as 2 weeks old. Often, they are the only care option for parents working nontraditional hours — the farmworkers who start before dawn, janitors on the graveyard shift, the warehouse workers stocking shelves overnight. Most in-home child-care providers are women of color, many of them immigrants.
Read more at latimes.com.
Pamela never quite imagined herself as a family child care provider. She had planned her life around her career as a military police officer, and served proudly for many years. While serving overseas, Pamela met her now husband of over 20 years. Today, the family of five lives in Siskiyou County, where Pamela has dedicated the past decade to providing affordable, quality care to the families in her community—even in spite of a recent cancer diagnosis.
It all started in 2007 when the couple returned to the United States after years of overseas deployments, and while stationed at Fort Irwin in San Bernardino County, they celebrated the birth of their first child. Like many working moms before her, Pamela made the difficult decision to leave her career to care for her son. But she still wanted to make a difference in her community, too, so she started taking classes and earned her associate’s degree in early childhood education.
The family grew from three to four and moved to Siskiyou County, where Pamela’s husband started a new job at the Forest Service and she worked at the local elementary school while pursuing her B.A. But it was difficult finding affordable child care in Siskiyou County—so Pamela vowed to do something about it.
Opening her own family child care gave Pamela the opportunity to have an active part in her young children’s educational development while also helping other families in her community. It was the best of both worlds, but it was not without its struggles. Like most family child care providers in California, low rates and lack of benefits can make doing this vital work that much harder.
Pamela’s passion for education can be seen in everything she does with the children in her care—from providing developmentally appropriate toys and integrating nature walks and other outdoor activities into her curriculum to promote health and balance.
And, since being diagnosed with cancer and multiple sclerosis, she has only closed her doors twice: once when she began multiple sclerosis treatment, and the other when her husband helped her shave her hair after starting chemotherapy. With the help of an assistant, she now serves six children between the ages of 14 months and 4 years old. Through it all, her passion for care has never wavered.
It should come as no surprise, then, that Pamela also puts her all into being an active member of her union. Even while battling two difficult diagnoses, Pamela is a member of our bargaining team and is helping in the fight for an improved rate structure that accurately reflects the true cost of care. She knows that our voices are what make us such a powerful union and will keep on fighting for herself and her fellow family child care providers.
She has gone above and beyond the status quo of any family child care provider, continuing to provide care for those in her community, and even using her diagnoses and life obstacles as teaching moments in her classroom. Her commitment to educating and caring for the children at her daycare is inspiring, and her story serves as a reminder of the challenges that family child care providers in California face and the dedication it takes to provide quality care despite those challenges.
To learn how you can join Pamela and others in our fight for better reimbursement rates, a path to retirement, and more, please call our Member Resource Center at 800-621-5016.
By ADAM BEAM
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Every weekday, Patricia Moran has up to a dozen children in her San Jose home day care center, mostly from low-income families — and sometimes the kids are as young as 2 weeks old because their parents can’t afford to take more time off from work.
In between helping the children make bubbles, serving them meals at a big table with small chairs and teaching them “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” in English and Spanish, Moran said she is fielding phone calls from other parents — sometimes up to four per day — who are desperate to find care for their young children.
That’s why Moran was surprised when Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, who is just starting his second term in office, proposed to delay funding for 20,000 additional slots for subsidized child care for low-income families in order to help balance the state budget.
Even more perplexing was Newsom’s reasoning for the delay: The child care spots that were already funded were not yet being used.
“They need (these vouchers) right away,” Moran said. “The parents, they have to go to work.”
It’s true that there’s plenty of demand for subsidized child care, and it’s also true that much of the funding California has already allocated has not been used — a paradox that reflects the state’s roller coaster revenues and the strange funding decisions that arise.
For the past four years, the state has had so much money that it couldn’t spend it fast enough. With record-breaking surpluses aided by billions of dollars in federal pandemic aid, Newsom and state lawmakers paid for 146,000 new child care slots for low-income families. That’s so many new slots — more than double what had been previously available — that state officials couldn’t fill them fast enough.
State-funded child care workers must be licensed by the state, a process that requires background checks and inspections to ensure that day care centers — some of which are in homes — are safe and secure. It can take up to a year to go through the whole process.
Once the administrative hurdles are out of the way, enrolling families can take more time. Farooq Azhar, executive director of BJ Jordan Child Care Programs in Sacramento, said there are 4,700 families on his waiting list. When it’s time for enrollment, some families don’t respond, some don’t follow through and others just “take a long time to complete the required paperwork,” he said.
Read the full article at apnews.com.
By Annette Nicholson
It’s 5 a.m. and the stars are still bright in the sky. I’ve already been awake for an hour, preparing to welcome the first family dropping their child off. Over the course of the day, I’ll read books, lead educational activities, watch over nap time and cook three hot meals before the last child gets picked up at 8 p.m.
Then I’ll wake up and do it all over again – seven days a week.
This work isn’t for everyone but I love it. Working communities like mine cannot thrive without child care providers.
Many of us are Black and brown women who exist near poverty, despite the long hours we keep. But this cannot remain the norm. California’s leaders need to eliminate the enduring relics of slavery built into this work which intentionally leaves us behind.
I have a bachelor’s degree in business administration and a masters in public health but left a well-paying medical administration job because it wasn’t fulfilling. I turned back to my roots caring for neighborhood kids when I was growing up in Missouri, and I opened up a home-based child care.
I now welcome seven kids into my home every day – the youngest is 14 months old and the oldest is 12 years old. Some kids are the fourth in their family to spend their vital early learning years with me. And I love and cherish each of them and their families.
But love doesn’t pay my bills. And I barely get by on the $10,000 in annual take home pay (after expenses).
When my fence went down in one of the horrible storms we experienced last year, I knew I needed to get it fixed immediately for the safety of the children I serve. I also knew that would require tapping into my savings. At 61 years old, the savings I had intended for retirement have mostly gone into emergencies like this so I’m not sure when or if I’ll be able to retire.
Many are shocked to learn California’s child care providers take home so little and wonder how that can be legal. The ugly truth is majority Black workforces – like in-home care workers and child care providers – were intentionally excluded from federal labor protections after the Emancipation Proclamation and continued to be left out of the protections we’re most familiar with today, many provided through the New Deal.
Read more at calmatters.org.
By Clyde Weiss, AFSCME, August 19, 2016
The need to make child care more affordable for families has been an issue in the Presidential race. But not enough attention has been given to the people – mostly women – who provide that care. That’s too bad, because nearly half of the nation’s child care workers are in families that receive food stamps, welfare or other federal support, according to a new report.
Researchers at the University of California-Berkeley found that, last year, 46 percent of child care providers lived in families enrolled in at least one of the social safety net programs: SNAP (food stamps), TANF (welfare), Medicaid or the Federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). That compares with slightly over a quarter of the total U.S. workforce that is enrolled in such programs.
These providers – an “almost exclusively female workforce,” according to the researchers – earn a median hourly wage of just $9.77. That’s less than a janitor is paid, on average. “Nationally, child care workers are nearly in the bottom percentile (second) when all occupations are ranked by annual earnings,” the report said.
“Our nation relies on their knowledge and skills to provide high-quality early care and education to our increasingly diverse population of children and families,” the authors wrote. “Yet our system of preparing, supporting, and rewarding early educators in the United States remains largely ineffective, inefficient, and inequitable.”
Without a change in state and federal policies that address this issue, they added, “our nation will remain unable to deliver on the promise of developmental and learning opportunities for all children.”
The authors – led by Marcy Whitebook, director of the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment at the University of California-Berkeley – recommended several strategies to improve child care worker compensation, including identifying ongoing sources of funding “to ensure sustainable raises in base pay, in order to substantially improve the economic circumstances of early educators and to ensure the ability to attract and retain a skilled workforce.”
It will take political willpower to increase the wages of child care providers, but the consequences of not doing so may be felt by the next generation.
“We’re entrusting children to people who are really struggling to feed their own families,” said Whitebook in an interview about the report in the Washington Post. “They’re managing all this stress, which is distracting to all the important work they have to do.”
It’s at the state level where the changes must be made. “State policies play a powerful role in shaping early childhood jobs and, in turn, the quality of early learning experiences available to young children,” the report notes.
AFSCME, which represents thousands of child care workers nationwide, supports state initiatives to raise child care compensation. In California, UDW Homecare Providers Union/AFSCME Local 3930 is working with state lawmakers to raise subsidy rates for family child care providers who earn, on average, just $4.98 per hour after accounting for expenses, according to the coalition, “Raising California Together,” of which UDW is a member. Higher rates will make it “easier for them to afford their work-related expenses and keep their day cares open for business,” wrote UDW Exec. Dir. Doug Moore in a recent column on our blog.
“These problems add up to decreased access to quality, affordable child care and early learning opportunities for our children,” wrote Moore, also an AFSCME International vice president. “But there is a solution: Make an investment in family child care providers to increase families’ access to child care.”
Hillary Clinton, AFSCME’s endorsed candidate for President, is committed to raising wages for America’s child care workforce. “Hillary will create the Respect and Increased Salaries for Early Childhood Educators (RAISE) initiative,” her campaign website says. “In line with Clinton’s Care Workers Initiative, RAISE will fund and support states and local communities that work to increase the compensation of child care providers and early educators and provide equity with kindergarten teachers by investing in educational opportunities, career ladders, and professional salaries.”
AFSCME will work to elect Secretary Clinton so she can carry out her pledge to the nation’s child care workers. They – and the next generation – depend on her.
For Immediate Release
June 27, 2016
Contact: Mike Roth, 916.444.7170
Sacramento, CA – The Raising California Together Coalition released the following statement from Co-Chairs Tonia McMillian, family child care provider, and Clarissa Doutherd, a parent and Executive Director at Parent Voices Oakland, on the budget agreement signed into law today that will invest $527 million in early learning and care for children and support for working parents in the state’s lowest-paying jobs:
“California took a huge leap forward for our kids today with the repeal of the Maximum Family Grant rule and investments in early learning that will pay dividends for generations. California’s early educators, parents and advocates are proud to have fought side-by-side through Raising California Together to improve child care quality and access and make early learning for California’s kids and support for working parents and the child care workforce a priority in this budget.
“Early learning is one of California’s best anti-poverty programs, and the significant, ongoing investment announced today will enable both child care workers and the parents they support to lift their families out of poverty.
“The Governor and legislative leadership have sent a strong and clear message that after years of neglect, California will no longer ignore an achievement gap that divides our kids into haves and have-nots before they even start kindergarten.
“But our fight to build the type of child care system that is worthy of all our children is far from over. Raising income eligibility and continuing to invest in quality care for infants and toddlers is critical to ensuring parents can maintain access to child care and for providers to be able to keep their doors open. We must also keep fighting to expand affordable child care until every growing girl and boy has access to a quality early learning experience each deserves, regardless of background.”
Raising California together, a coalition of child care workers, agencies, parents, educators, clergy and interfaith networks, unions, small businesses, women’s and children’s advocates, community groups, and public health organizations united to press for local, state, and national policy solutions to increase access to quality child care and early learning choices.