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Dad Daze: Help may be on the way for those struggling with child care

Spokesman-Review - 2/8/2021

Feb. 7—Yolanda has three children, two jobs and one goal, which is to make everything work for her family. My son Milo played on a baseball tournament team with her son, Javy. I always marveled at how this single mom, who worked as a secretary by day and cleaned offices at night, was able to make ends meet and keep her sanity

While driving her family 570 miles for a tournament in Myrtle Beach in 2017, Yolanda's car broke down shortly after reaching South Carolina, but somehow Javy reported on time. The shy Puerto Rican American seldom missed a practice or game.

His mother accomplished so much for her family despite endless obstacles. The biggest impediment was child care. More than 10% of what she earned was paid to caregivers. It's made life difficult for Yolanda and millions of Americans.

There is and has been a child-care crisis in America for many years. When child care was unavailable not long after the pandemic commenced last March, many women had no choice but to leave their jobs, which left many in disarray.

According to a September report by Lean In and McKinsey & Co., 1 in 4 women are considering a lesser position or leaving the workforce altogether due to child care.

Help might be on the way, courtesy of President Joe Biden's child care assistance plan, which is part of his $1.9 trillion coronavirus rescue package. "If left unaddressed, many child care providers will close, some permanently.

"And millions of children could go without necessary care, and millions of parents could be left to make devastating choices this winter between caring for their children and working to put food on the table," Biden's plan stated.

Dr. Dana Suskind, a pediatrician who is the founder and co-director of Chicago'sTMW Center for Early Learning and Public Health, is ecstatic about the game-changing proposal.

"The president's plan is like a breath of fresh air," Suskind said during a telephone interview from her Chicago office. "The leader of our country talking about the importance of child care is huge. It's evident what we have to do after studying the development of children's brains.

"The first three years of a child's life are critical to the development of a child's brain. We're at the point in which we have to decide whether we want to mitigate the problem or exacerbate it."

Not to sound like a Whitney Houston song, but I believe the children are our future. I caught Mike Judge's "Idiocracy" over the weekend, which is a film about how we potentially de-evolve over the next couple of centuries.

A way to avoid that is to care and cultivate young brains. Stability is necessary. Every year, there are feel-good stories about professional athletes who, due to their physical gifts, escape a hardscrabble life.

Rolling Stone published an extraordinary feature on ex-Dallas Cowboys star Dez Bryant in 2015. "Crackheads in my house, potato chips and peanut butter for dinner," Bryant said to Rolling Stone. "My life was (expletive) all the way to college. ... You'd be lucky if you had a Hot Pocket for dinner. We used to eat at Salvation Army on the regular, when the neighbors couldn't help us out."

Those who escape poverty like Bryant are few, but there are many who are mired in a terrible situation for much of their lives. "There's the belief that through hard work, you can pull yourself up by your bootstraps, but that is easier said than done," Suskind said.

It's apparent how much of a need there is for families working overtime who are having trouble paying bills courtesy of what is usurped from their checks due to their young children. The child care plan is one of the few in which folks on both sides of the aisle are in agreement. It makes sense since women can return and stay in the workforce.

"That's what is needed for a robust economy," Suskind said. "Unlike so many other policy issues, this one has overwhelming bipartisan support. High-quality child care is essential. This is a win for everybody.

"The government will be molding citizens and investing in the future. The plan will cut child poverty by 51%. Poverty is not good for the development of a child's brain. If child poverty is cut in half, that would be spectacular."

It's not just about dollars and cents, but also the precious commodity of time for families to spend with their children. "That's so important since a child needs at least one stable force who is just crazy about you," Suskind said.

My longtime friend Yolanda is crazy about each of her children. The child care plan would ease her burden, and that would be so for many others. One of the silver linings of the coronavirus is that it's evident that change is necessary when it comes to quality child care.


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