Things That Matter

Childcare Is More Expensive Than College, And These Parents Are Feeling The Effects

In honor of Labor Day, mitú is running a short series highlighting childcare providers in California and those affected by struggles with childcare. More than half of licensed providers are women of color. One in three providers in California are Latina. They and others are fighting for a fairer wage, collective bargaining within the government and many other issues. The final story in the series focuses on the parents struggling with accessing childcare.

Jillian Parker sits at a small school table, made specially for tiny child hands to draw funny little animals on construction paper. The table is located in the home of Tonia McMillan, a childcare provider who provides in-home care and education for Parker’s three children. The 29-year-old single mom of three says finding quality childcare hasn’t been hard for her.

The keeping it is hard,” she says.

This is a major problem parents are facing, stemming from financial strain to bureaucratic red tape. Mary Ignatius, an organizer with Parent Voices, identifies the main barriers to child care for parents to be a lack of supply, affordability and a bad system for subsidized care.

In most states, childcare is more expensive than a year of tuition at a state college. That’s not an exaggeration. In 2015, the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) released a report explaining how childcare has become out of reach for working families.

Photo credit: SEIU

EPI has an online Family Budget calculator where people can input family size and geographical location to calculate the average monthly and annual cost of living in different cities across the country. It estimates child care for two children in San Francisco, LA, and San Diego to cost $901/month. That’s $10,815 for a year of childcare. In New York, that cost skyrockets to $2,011/month, or $24,130/year. Basic tuition at San Diego State University is $7,184/year. At San Francisco State, it’s $6,484 for in-state students. A year at State University of New York, Buffalo is $21,550. Midwestern and southern states also follow this trend.

Driving the price of childcare are market rates, which vary from city to city, and the ratio of provider to child/children in their care. Infant care is the most expensive since you need one provider for every three infants in their care.

“Do you want someone watching more than 3 babies?” says Ignatius. “I can barely watch one! As children get older, gets a little less, but it’s still very expensive.”

Ignatius herself pays $1,500 a month in San Francisco for full-time childcare for her four-year-old son. If she had another child, that cost would more than double.

The child care system in place in the state of California is so broken that no one is winning: Not the childcare providers making as low as $2/hour and working 15-hour days minimum nor the parents that either can’t afford childcare costs or struggle trying to navigate the state’s subsidized care system.

Photo credit: SEIU

The ones most affected, however, are the children missing out on quality childcare and education, and low-income families and black and Latino families.

That leads to a series of larger social issues, like developmental setbacks, a higher risk of entering the school-to-prison pipeline and many other societal problems that especially affect disadvantaged people of color.

As we shared in the first installment of this series, the childcare system is frustratingly confusing and tedious. While some parents pay out of pocket for child care, making it a somewhat simple transaction (you watched my child, here is the money I owe you), many others rely on subsidized childcare from the state government, with the government providing funding to local non-profits who then pay the providers directly.

Parker is one of those parents. And the process of maintaining subsidized care is an endless series of headaches.

“You take one piece of paper up there and you think you’re done, and then you’ll get a call two days later. ‘Oh, you’re missing this,’” says Parker. “And it’s like, ‘Ok why didn’t you tell me that when I was up there?’ You’ll take that and go back. I’ve gone to Tonia many times frustrated. They keep calling me because they need this or they need that, and she’s gone to bat for me many times. Like ‘Don’t worry. I’ve got it.’”

Not only that, but if there is an issue with paperwork, if a parent’s hours changed, if they got a slight raise or something else comes up, agencies will stop approving care, even going so far as not paying providers for care they’ve already provided.

That back and forth often cuts into Parker’s work hours. Luckily, she has an understanding employer who sees the connection between her ability to work and her access to childcare. But many aren’t so lucky.

Lack of childcare has been proven to be a major barrier to unemployment for parents. The Center for American Progress reports that “2 million parents are forced to make career sacrifices due to problems with childcare.” In 2014, PBS reported that for many double-parent households it’s cheaper for a parent to stay home than pay for child care. Even that is a luxury though.

Photo credit: SEIU

Twenty-five-year old Yolanda Palacios, a researcher for a construction notice company, and her husband, a working musician, struggle to get by, even on two incomes. Her student loan payments and child support for his daughter from a previous relationship have added extra financial strain. The little extra money they have is going towards her husband’s immigration lawyer, who is helping them establish permanent residency. He’s currently undocumented.

“We pretty much live paycheck to paycheck. Staying home is not an option,” says Palacios. “Right now I’m just trying to find a higher paying job. But since we’re working on his residency I have to sponsor him. I need to have a stable income, so I don’t know if I go and get a new job it will affect his residency application.”

Currently, Palacios’ mom is providing childcare at little cost. However, her mom is planning on going back to work in the next year, leaving Palacios and her family in a tough spot. After researching childcare near her, she realized it’s out of reach and saving for that coming cost is nearly impossible.

It’s stressful. Right now I’m trying not to think about it,” she says. “But with the quality of childcare when we even get it – it’s stressful. I think about how my son is going to be affected because he’s used to my mom, and then he’s gonna be in a whole new environment.”

Leslie Zaragoza is a 27-year-old mother to a two-year-old. She and her husband are currently paying $400/month out of pocket to her mother-in-law and sister for childcare, and unfortunately, their cost just went up as they’ve had to move to a non-family provider. Zaragoza will now be paying $560/month to an at-home daycare, or $6,720/year. That’s a major increase for her family. They’ve moved in with her mom to save for a house, but are finding it hard to do so without sacrificing their son’s well being.

“It’s important for him to be in a daycare where he’s not just being watched but being taught,” she says. “I feel like all the daycares that offer education are a lot more expensive. It’s just frustrating not to be able to be able to afford a childcare where your child can get an education.”

She’s already seen behavioral issues with her son as a result of the instability of his childcare. While the financial burden is huge on her family, Zaragoza hopes her son will benefit from not bouncing around between providers anymore.

According to Ignatius, the current system “puts low-income families in a tough spot because it’s not great for provider,” who “have to take a gamble” on parents with subsidized care, knowing there’s a good chance they won’t get paid by the agencies for any number of reasons.

“It doesn’t benefit them to have these families, but those families need childcare,” she says.

However, providers often step up, sacrificing their own livelihoods by continuing to provide care for children even when parents can’t pay on time or subsidy agencies have their check on hold. And they do it because they’ve forged a tight bond with both parents and the children. There’s love there, and trust, despite a system that fails them both.

If you try to make childcare more affordable on the parents’ side, then it’s coming out of the pay that goes to the providers. Or on the flip side, if you increase pay to providers, you may have to pass on those costs to the parents,” says Ignatius. 

Photo credit: SEIU

“We’re in this system that’s pitting each side against each other and that’s wrong. And that’s why we need government intervention.”

Still, there have been some successes in the fight for childcare access. In California, the governor approved state funding of $25 million to help families remain eligible for childcare subsidies. They’ve raised the State Median Income (SMI) so working parents can accept a raise or promotion without losing their subsidized childcare. Families who are eligible for affordable childcare will now also remain eligible for 12 months, even if there’s a change in need or their income, unless their income goes over 85 percent of the current SMI.

That means less unnecessary paperwork that bogs down the entire system, from provider and parents, to employers and school and agency administrators who all have to fill out paperwork for one child to receive care. Parents previously had to go through the process every four months, sometimes with multiple employers that have multiple jobs. With this change, which goes into effect next month, there will be more stability for parents children and providers, and less disruption of both care and pay.

“It was all an attempt to catch someone in a lie; someone frauding the system,” says Ignatius. “In fact, agencies reported that the majority of their case load was still eligible after year, despite having to chase people down for documentation. There really was no need to require that. Providers also caught in middle because if documents are not filed, providers don’t get paid.”

It’s a step in the right direction; a necessary stitch in a bleeding wound. Parents, providers, and organizers are fighting hard to improve the system for all. But there’s still much more that needs to be won. It’s all so providers and families can thrive, and children can grow healthier and have greater opportunities. It’s about breaking the systemic cycles that keep them perpetually at a disadvantage, unable to gain the opportunities this country promises to those who work hard and dream for more. Their dreams are basic, and it’s up to the government to decide if they can reach them.


READ: Meet The Organizers Fighting For Childcare Providers Who Are Struggling To Get By

Care about families and childcare? Share this story with friends by clicking that little button!

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com

This Poor Mom Had To Spend 20 Hours Detangling Her Daughter’s Hair To Free It Of 150 Velcro-Toys

Fierce

This Poor Mom Had To Spend 20 Hours Detangling Her Daughter’s Hair To Free It Of 150 Velcro-Toys

I think it’s safe to say that during this strange time of quarantine, that we can definitely count parents among the heroes.

Stay at home orders and efforts to keep children at home, have caused parents to have to reevaluate their daily schedules. Now, so many parents are working double time to give their students the attention and education that they truly need.

A Pennsylvania mom recently highlighted the chaos of this new reality after showing what happened when she let her children play with toys after they’d finished their school work.

In a post shared on her Facebook Lisa Hoelzle shared a nightmarish experience of having to detangle her daughter Abigail’s hair after her son Noah dumped her into a hairy situation.

I post the good …. well here is some of the bad ☹️☹️☹️ Friday at 4pm until Saturday at 10pm was my worst Mom…

Publicado por Lisa Tschirlig Hoelzle en Domingo, 10 de enero de 2021

Hoelzle’s children are both 6 years old and like most kids in the United States right now, staying at home and doing virtual school. After finishing their school day, Noah and Abigail headed down to their basement to play with Bunchems, a toy that includes tiny Velcro-like balls that stick together.

It didn’t take long for sweet Noah, who Hoelzle describes in her post as a “jokester,” to dump a full container of the Bunchems on his sister’s head. Little did he know he’d just launched his sister into a mother’s “worst Mom nightmare.”

“I think I had an out-of-body experience,” Hoelzle wrote of the moment she saw her daughter’s hair. “She had about 150 of these things layered and matted in her hair. They made it worse trying to remove them themselves because they connect together kinda like Velcro.”

Bunchems hair
LISA TSCHIRLIG HOELZLE/ Facebook

Speaking about her initial plan of action Hoelzle, said that it took around three hours to remove fifteen of the Bunchems. When her husband, Dan, arrived home the two Google their next approach and only then realized “the severity of what we were up against. It suggested using conditioner and vegetable oil to loosen it but that made it worse and so messy. He got out about 10 more Before you knew, it was 1 am and Abigail could not keep her eyes open I slept with her head on me so they wouldn’t get more tangled. Not that I really could sleep.”

When it came to cutting her losses and, cutting her daughter’s hair Hoelzle said she just couldn’t do it. “If we cut them out because of how deep they were she would have winded up with a short pixie cut,” she explained. “It crushed my heart and I just couldn’t in my heart give up without trying my best to get them out. I am that Mom that has a bow to match each outfit! Haha”

The next day, Lisa went back to work, this time armed with mineral oil and a detangling comb.

“There was also a lot of tears (mine)” Hoelzle joked. “Abigail consoled me and Noah because he felt awful what he did. Abigail was surprisingly amazing about it !! She is usually the child that acts like you are killing her when I brush her hair! When she started to wine about it my Mom brought in a Lollipop and stuck it in her mouth! Lol. Hey, you got to do what you got to do! It was such a long day. I never watched so much kids U tube to entertain her but after 20 hours total after pulling and working them out of her head and lots of hair loss I got them all out. Followed by an hour or more in the bath tub with conditioner and combing out the knots.”

“I feel like we had a miracle with all of our prayers,” Hoelzl added. “We saved her hair and although it is thinner it wasn’t as damaged and ruined as I thought so Thank you God!!!” she wrote.

While Hoelzle says her fingers are “literally swollen” from the experience she is thankful to be done with the “awful situation.”

Bunchems hair
LISA TSCHIRLIG HOELZLE/ Facebook

She is now set on getting the word out about Bunchems and the severe consequences the toys can have.

“This will be something we will never forget very traumatic experience in the Hoelzle household this weekend,” she said before asking her friends to spread the word. “Trash you Bunchems if you have them or if you love them where a shower caps when playing with a sibling! Lol. This will be something we will never forget very traumatic experience in the Hoelzle household this weekend. I kept trying to think we have our health it [could] be worse but boy oh boy what a sickening feeling!”

Bunchems are still available to purchase but they were discontinued last year, likely for this reason.

According to New York Post, spokesperson for Spin Master, the company behind Bunchems said that they “quickly developed instructional videos for our YouTube channel and websites as a way to proactively educate people on how to play with the product and how to remove Bunchems from hair if they do get tangled.”

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com

Parents Are Applauding A Meteorologist After Her Baby Adorably Crashed Her Weather Report

Fierce

Parents Are Applauding A Meteorologist After Her Baby Adorably Crashed Her Weather Report

Screenshot via YouTube

COVID-19 has completely changed practically everyone’s way of living. But post-pandemic life has become especially challenging for parents, who are now forced to be stuck inside with their children for hours on end.

Between assisting your kids with distance learning and struggling to find your own “me time”, many parents feel as if their world has been turned upside down.

Recently, news watchers in Southern California caught a glimpse into the new era of COVID parenting when meteorologist Lisa Lopez’s toddler interrupted her live broadcast.

Los Angeles-based KABC meteorologist Leslie Lopez was reporting the weather as usual when she was visited by an unexpected guest. As she spoke about an incoming storm, her 9-month-old son, Nolan, entered the frame.

Slightly startled, Lopez giggled for a moment and said, “Looks like there’s a baby down below,” before bending over and picking him up. Then, like the rockstar that she is, she continued her report.

“He walks now, guys, so I’ve lost all control,” she quipped before ending the segment.

The public’s reaction to the adorable interruption was incredibly positive.

No one was annoyed that their weather report was interrupted. On the contrary, so many people felt like the clip made them feel less alone.

“Agree that this is always fun to see—we are all dealing with this and it makes one feel good—it’s real,” said one woman on Twitter. “It’s awesome. Never feel bad because we all inside are feeling joy as we can relate.”

Others commented on how the video perfectly illustrated how modern women have become adept at multitasking. “It was not just a moment of heartwarming love, but a moment of the strength of women!” said another Twitter user. “It just shows how easily women can be full of love and do their job at the same time!”

Later, KABC did a special report on the happy mistake to see what Lopez herself thought of the surprising public reaction.

“We received so many comments from viewers thanking her for showing what the reality is right now for so many people working with kids at home,” said fellow reporter Jovana Lara. “It is not easy.”

As for Lopez, she revealed that viewers are hungry for a different kind of weather report: “I’ve been getting comments, ‘More baby in weather, please.'” Yes, please!

Headlines: Meteorologist Leslie Lopez Is Interrupted on Air By Her Toddler and the Video is Adorable

Parents Are Applauding Meteorologist Leslie Lopez for How She Handled Her Baby’s Adorable Interruption

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com