Hosted by Michigan’s Children, Parents, Providers Share Stories of Child Care Challenges with Congressional Staff

(Sept. 28, 2021) Michigan’s Children hosted a child care event called “Invest in Child Care, Invest in Michigan’s Future” to connect Michigan parents and child care providers with a handful of federal legislative offices who are negotiating child care funding as we speak. Our parent and provider guest speakers shared their personal experiences with lack of affordable, accessible child care, which echo the challenges of families across Michigan.

Parents and Providers Speak on Child Care
When her kids were young, Lansing mother of three Anita Cobb worked two jobs and 75-hour weeks to support her family. Exorbitant child care costs and a lack of centers offering nontraditional hours forced her to make a two-hour journey to Indiana twice a week so her parents could care for her children while she worked her weekend job.

For Cara Rossi, mother of two from Grosse Pointe, child care costs more than her mortgage. She expressed that many fellow moms have compared their salary to child care costs and realized they couldn’t justify working when it meant sinking most of their paycheck into child care each month.

As if cost wasn’t enough of a hurdle for Michigan families, Carrie Anderson, director of two Dexter child care centers, highlighted the severe child care shortages that can be felt across the state. There are 35 infants and 20 older children on her center’s waitlists. It wasn’t always like this. Anne Brown, Field Representative for U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin, had an opposite experience from a time when child care was far more prolific across the state: 24 years ago, Child Care Network gave her a list of 40 child care centers within one mile of her home. Gone are the days when it’s as easy as picking which child care provider is best for your family. In 2020, just one county in the state had enough child care slots for children.

Waitlists turn into missed job opportunities for parents, and as mother of three Megan Koops-Fisher pointed out, every closure of a child care provider means lost jobs for community members and severed bonds between child care teachers and families who lean on them for nurturing care and advice.

Michigan is currently in the midst of a child care crisis that the likes of which Carrie Anderson, with 25 years of experience in the industry, has never seen: “There is a shortage of child care workers and it is at the critical point. Some days I have to ask families to keep their kids home because I don’t have enough staff to care for them.”

People pursue careers in child care out of a love for kids and a desire to make a positive impact in their lives, but Anita Cobb revealed the financial hardships that child care teachers face, “I have a very dear friend who was a child care teacher at a center for many years, but she had to make the hard decision to change careers because she wasn’t getting paid enough to make a basic living. We have to think about how to get better pay for daycare workers so that they can have a livable wage and be attracted to working in child care.”

Throughout the event, parents, providers, and legislative offices alike echoed the need to increase wages for child care teachers, who are currently among the lowest paid professionals making an average of just $12.30 an hour.

Likewise, Mecca Mack, a license-exempt child care provider (LEP) from Flint, shared that there is exceedingly low compensation for LEPs, who provide culturally competent care for low-income families, often in the comfort of the children’s home. Parents receive the paycheck on behalf of LEPs and are expected to pay them, which results in many uncompensated LEPs.

Legislative Offices Commit to Prioritizing Child Care
Michigan’s Children invited representatives from a handful of Members of Congress to its child care forum who are well-positioned to help ensure that Michigan’s priorities are represented in federal actions. The offices of U.S. Reps. Debbie Dingell and Haley Stevens were among those invited but they did not attend.

Legislative staff members from Sen. Debbie Stabenow, Sen. Gary Peters, U.S. Rep. Slotkin, and U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee’s offices all voiced overwhelming support for prioritizing child care in the American Families Plan which is currently under debate in the Budget Reconciliation process. They spoke on the importance of crafting policies that increase the affordability, accessibility, and supply of child care, in addition to child care teacher wage and provider supports.

Darian Burrell-Clay from Sen. Peters’ office emphasized the integral part that child care will play in strengthening the economy as the nation recovers from the pandemic.

Hannah Jenuwine from Rep. Kildee’s office shared some of the policies he supports that are being considered in Congress, including supplementing the cost of child care, creating a child care information network to help families access care, and investing in infrastructure improvements for child care facilities.

Anne Brown from Rep. Slotkin’s office stressed how important it is to call the offices of Congress members who are sitting on the fence – those who have not committed to the American Families Plan under reconciliation, or to prioritizing child care.

Amanda York from Sen. Stabenow’s office encouraged parents and providers to continue to reach out to their office to share personal experiences with child care, “It helps when Sen. Stabenow is on the Senate floor to be able to point to some of these local stories in Michigan, and put a family and a face to these stories,” York said.

Mecca Mack hammered home why people must continue to demand investments in child care for Michigan families. “We need support to take care of our babies. Kids are our future. We need to look out for the people who are caring for our future,” she said.

To contact your elected officials and urge them to support child care funding for families, child care providers, and child care teachers, take action here. Share your personal challenges with child care and how crucial it is for your community. Ask them how they plan to vote on the American Families Plan in the Budget Reconciliation process.

Watch the event recording here.
Madeline Elliott is a Policy and Programs Associate for Michigan’s Children.