As 2012 begins, states are continuing to make, or propose, cuts to child care. Maryland’s waiting list for child care assistance, started last year, has grown to over 14,000 children. California’s governor has proposed to reduce spending for child care and early education by $517 million, which would deprive 62,000 children of the opportunity to participate in these programs. Washington’s governor has proposed to cut funding for child care assistance by $50 million, which would result in 4,000 fewer children receiving help.

A CNN story aired this weekend demonstrates what these cuts mean for parents who need help affording child care so they can hold onto their jobs and make sure their children are in care that nurtures their growth and learning.

The state child care cuts result from the expiration of additional child care funding that was provided in 2009 and 2010 through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, a decrease in states’ use of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funds for child care—from $3.5 billion in 2009 to $2.8 billion in 2010 (the most recent data available)—as states use these funds to meet other needs, and persistent state budget pressures. New and proposed child care cuts come on top of cuts states made in the previous year. Families in 37 states were worse off under one or more state child care assistance policies—due to more restrictive eligibility criteria, longer waiting lists, lower provider reimbursement rates, or higher parent copayments—in 2011 than in 2010, according to an NWLC report released in October 2011.

These cuts will mean more parents straining to afford basic expenses such as rent and food while covering the cost of care on their own, or using lower-quality care because they cannot afford better options, or being unable to work at all because they cannot afford child care.

Parents are heartbroken when they cannot afford the care that they want for their children and that that they know would help their children get a strong early start on the way to a successful future. Andrea Stubbs, a mother living in Maryland and earning just $680 month at her job, told CNN, “I want the best for my child and I want his future to be as bright as possible.” Yet, after losing her child care assistance, she had to pull her son out of the child care center he was attending—where he was thriving—and instead turn to a patchwork of arrangements. Depriving Andrea—and millions of parents like her—of the child care help they need makes it that much harder for them to see to it that their hopes for their children are fulfilled.