Improving Access to Child Care for Low-Income Women
During this time of economic upheaval, when so many low-income women are struggling to find work and stay employed, the lack of affordable, quality child care is an enormous obstacle to a more financially secure future.
In 2008, 72 percent of single, low-income mothers who earned 200 percent of the poverty level or lower and had children under age six were employed. Securing stable, quality care for these women is costly, presenting a major barrier to their long-term employment prospects. The average cost of full-day care for an infant represents about 41 percent of the median income for single mothers.
Additionally, the child care work force, which is 96.4 percent female, often lacks the skills and training to provide quality care. With wages that rarely climb above the poverty level, few of these workers have the incentive to go back to school and improve their skills. The average income nationally of a full-time child care worker is about $20,350—approximately 120 percent of the federal poverty level for a family of three.
Several pieces of legislation currently under consideration by Congress would have a significant impact on the availability of quality childcare for low-income women. These include an expansion of the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit so that is would support more low-income families, and increased funding for the Child Care and Development Block Grant Program (CCDBG) and Head Start to help states and localities reduce waiting lists for subsidized child care.
As a nation we need to recognize that job creation and training programs will not be effective without the establishment of policies and systems that promote quality, affordable and accessible child care for low-income mothers. Without good and reliable child care, women who try to hold down jobs will face little prospect of economic security, and their children will suffer the consequences of inconsistent, substandard care.
At the local, state and national level there is much policy makers, as well as the philanthropic community and private entities, can do to ensure that programs with a proven record of success are able to expand their reach to more families and communities. During a time of desperately lean state budgets and deficit concerns in Congress, we must all work together to ensure that the needs of low-income mothers and their children are not pushed aside for another day. If we fail to give them the support necessary to secure good jobs and find quality care for their children, our country’s long-term economic health will suffer—and we will all pay the price.
Download full report: Child Care Matters: Building Economic Opportunity for Low-Income Women
Download the presentation from the report release Webinar.
Watch the video of the report release Webinar.
Access our Child Care Matters Toolkit.