By: Chris Burns Access article
COVID-19 is putting incredible pressure on lawmakers at every level. State lawmakers are currently writing Ohio’s next 2-year state budget. The decisions they make in the next 90 days will significantly affect all of us.
One of the most critical issues that must be addressed will have a huge multi-generational impact, particularly for low-income families from all walks of life. That issue is child care.
Many young children have spent too much of their life in a ruthless pandemic. The stress and trauma on children and families has been relentless. Some have lost family members. Others have gone without enough healthy food or have had to leave the only home they knew when their parents couldn’t pay the rent. Many parents have been forced to leave the workforce due to layoffs, child care dilemmas, and the fact that so many child care centers closed.
This reality matters because brain research tells us that stress can stunt brain development in young children. They can recover, but doing so takes nurturing – loving, stimulating interactions and careful attention to their development.
Of course, parents will provide this support as much as time allows. But child care programs also have to be at their best. Many young children spend as many waking hours in child care as they do with their families.
Ohio has an abysmally underfunded program called Publicly Funded Child Care. Extremely low-income families who are trying to become self-sufficient can get help paying for child care. Without this support, work simply doesn’t pay – half or more of many eligible families’ paychecks otherwise would be swallowed up by the cost of child care alone.
If we want to encourage work and financial independence, if we want children to get the early learning they need to start school on track, we have to put high quality, affordable child care within reach for more families.