Michigan Poised for Important Progress in Child Care Improvements

Never has there been a time when more attention was focused nationally on child care access. The pandemic has exacerbated the already grim state of the child care system in Michigan, causing legislators and business leaders to come to terms with the harsh realities that families and child care providers across Michigan have been facing for decades: high child care costs that rival mortgage and college tuition payments, child care deserts, the difficult balance between choosing affordable and quality care, low child care subsidy rates paid to providers, limited support for informal care providers, the under-paid child care workforce, and on and on.

When I was a little kid, my mom had to make the challenging and universal decision between advancing her career and staying home to care for me and my older sister. The costs incurred from one year of daycare weighed heavily on her decision to stay home, making my family a one-income household and contributing to periods of financial instability throughout my childhood. Michigan mothers are not returning to the workforce in similar numbers as men since the start of the pandemic, and they have cited child care as one of the biggest barriers to their re-entry. These mothers deserve the option of affordable, high-quality child care where their children will be in a safe learning environment, so they can advance their careers and ensure their family’s financial stability.

We must seize this moment when the nation’s eyes and the federal government’s funds are focused on child care by reaching out to our legislators and urging them to prioritize this issue! The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) is making a significant investment in Michigan’s child care system, and the Governor’s Early Childhood Policy Team and the Legislature are busy crafting proposals to spend these funds.

I graduated from MSU with a Social Work degree this year, and the social worker in me has been geeking out over the much needed relief that these investments will give to families and child care providers. In my previous role as an intern at Michigan’s Children, I was delighted to learn that there is an army of advocates from different sectors (nonprofit orgs, business coalitions, policy groups, etc.) who are laser-focused on improving child care access and provider support.

Another takeaway from my internship experience was how challenging and time-consuming it can be for the average Michigander to navigate non-user-friendly websites, learn about state legislation, and stay up-to-date on issues that affect children and families. This is where Michigan’s Children steps in, providing Budget Basics, Action Alerts, e-bulletins, and other communications that summarize the most pertinent information to spur advocacy efforts among Michiganders.

In my new role as Policy and Programs Associate, I will research child care and Early On issues in Michigan, engaging with advocates and legislators in order to deliver the timely calls to action that Michigan’s Children is known for. As part of this information gathering, I will build out our internal information systems to provide organized, timely information for staff. I will also assist in planning programs like Youth-Led Candidate Forums and Capitol Days (Advocacy Days). Finally, I will keep track of Legislators’ stances on child care and Early On to find champions to propose necessary policy changes.

I look forward to meeting many of you e-bulletin subscribers to learn from your expertise and draw inspiration from the passion you have for guaranteeing better outcomes for children and families in Michigan!

Maddie Elliott is a former intern for Michigan’s Children and was appointed as a Policy and Programs Associate this month.