I almost cringe to start a blog with an adage as old as this one, but here it goes: it takes a village to raise a child. Being an old adage doesn’t make it any less true, and in fact it probably makes it more so. Though I was raised in a house with two caregivers, both my parents worked, so some weeknight dinners were cooked by our nanny. And on Fridays, my grandmother picked me up from school. And in case of emergencies, our next-door neighbors were friendly and had keys. And our faith community taught us how to support others. And my teachers inspired me to create and ask questions. And, and, and, and. If I were to really define the village that led me toward self-sufficiency, it’s probably closer to a town or even a city. I was raised by a network of people who believed what so many of us believe: that children are society’s greatest resource, and therefore deserve our greatest investment.
I am not a parent myself, but as a beneficiary of this investment myself, as an adult I do view myself as part of this larger village for every child. Some I know by name – children of friends, children of colleagues. Some I see in my neighborhood as I walk my dog. All surrounded by a village onto themselves, and I hope that I can play my (sometimes small, sometimes big) part in helping to raise them up.
Just as I view myself as a part of these child raising villages, so too should the nonprofit sector. Whether your organization’s mission centers around child welfare or not, childcare policies impact your work and are worthy of your attention.
In fact, a policy priority of the Independent Sector and KaBOOM!-led coalition, the Nonprofit Infrastructure Investment Advocacy Group is increasing access to affordable childcare for working parents because the welfare of children matters to our sector.
The economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have been so disproportionately burdensome to women that some have called our current economic state a she-cession. With 29% of mothers not in the workforce as of September 2020 (compared to 85% of fathers), it is clear something must be done to better support working parents, with a focus on getting working mothers back to their (other) jobs. Women – who comprise 66% of the nonprofit workforce – have been disproportionately impacted, in part due to the outsized caregiving burden they carry for their households and communities.
For nonprofits to continue to support our communities and build back a strong economy, we need significant investment in childcare infrastructure, including home-based childcare.
According to research from Child Care Aware of America, the current childcare system in the United States has long been broken. Each state has its own set of childcare policies, and funding for childcare comes from different sources with different requirements. Childcare is inequitable: with children of color and children from low-income families are less likely to attend high-quality childcare programs. Meanwhile, for many families, high-quality childcare is not an option. There are not enough childcare providers to meet the demand, and providers are leaving the field in record numbers. This particularly affects families of color, families living in rural areas and children with special needs. The U.S. spends less than 0.5% of our GDP on childcare – far less than most industrialized countries.
As Mario Cardona of Child Care Aware of America puts it, “Childcare is the silent support enabling company productivity, individual economic mobility and children’s development. As Congress considers budget proposals on early care and education, we need to acknowledge that the solution for saving and strengthening childcare lies in long-term, robust and thoughtful investment. Childcare is a necessity, one that is important in every community and key to America’s recovery and long-term success. The cost of inaction is too high and the country cannot afford to bear it.”
Childcare is an issue about equity, access and affordability – and as a cross-cutting issue, it is prime for the creative problem solvers in the nonprofit sector. As a sector, we pride ourselves on our ability to unite disparate factions and loudly advocate for causes that impact us all. If we are all fellow village-members, then what is more worthy of our advocacy efforts than our shared village-children? With a focus on the children who are so often shut out of high-quality childcare, it is time to build an economy focused on investing in our most precious resources.