To Fix Child Care, It’s Time to Ask Families What They Actually Want. (And Then, Actually Implement It).
The child care community has been in crisis—long before the pandemic started.
In 40 states, child care workers earn poverty wages.[i] Meanwhile, for families, the cost of child care can surpass that of a college education. The harsh reality of the pandemic brought these issues into focus and underscored how vital affordable, high-quality child care is for the well-being of children, families, and our economy.
The American Rescue Plan included significant relief to help stabilize the child care sector, address underlying issues, and build a system of high-quality and affordable child care for all.
However, that was just a start.
And that’s where community-based, grassroots organizations come in. For decades, they have been fighting for an equitable child care system grounded in gender and racial justice. What makes these organizations so effective is quite simple: They are trusted and informed by their community.
In their advocacy work, they center the people—providers, children, and families—who are most impacted by the child care crisis. The result? Authentic policy solutions that actually work.
Here are some of the many grassroots groups that are fiercely fighting for child care, too often without the recognition they deserve:
- Family Values @ Work (National Grassroots Organization)
Founded in 2003 across just eight states, Family Values @ Work ([email protected]) has spearheaded impactful grassroots coalitions and far-reaching policy change. In their work, they are guided by two core missions: ensuring caregivers are properly valued and enabling people to be able to actually provide for their families. Because only then can we truly achieve racial, gender, and economic equity.
Their website includes resources, factsheets, and toolkits with information on workers’ rights, stories from workers and families, and webinars from various social policy organizations.
- Colorado Statewide Parent Coalition (State Grassroots Organization)
The Colorado Statewide Parent Coalition was founded in 1980 by a group of parents who wanted better for their children, particularly Latinx children who were experiencing inequities within the Colorado school system. They began by teaching others in their community about parent rights and ways to support early development and education. They now have a variety of curriculums, programs, and trainings designed to support parents and children.
For example, the Providers Advancing School Outcomes Program (PASO) provides training and resources for women who are caring for their children and other families’ children. To prepare children to enter kindergarten, PASO provides 120 hours of class time and 240 hours of home mentoring and coaching to close the achievement gap that disproportionally impacts Black and Latinx youth.
The Colorado Statewide Parent Coalition also has been a driving voice in informing the public about early childhood policy changes and initiatives. Their website keeps track of Colorado bills, what they do, and how to get involved.
- Service Employees International Union (Grassroots Union)
First formed in Chicago in 1921, the initial Service Employees International Union (SEIU) was composed of a diverse group of service employees—including Black people, immigrants, and women, all of whom held leadership positions right from the start. Since then, the union has grown to about two million diverse members across the country, all fighting to address a variety of challenges that workers and their families face.
SEIU also represents family child care and FFN providers in several states that have authorized unionization of those workers. SEIU Local 99 represents education workers including licensed and license-exempt home-based child care providers in Los Angeles and San Bernadino counties. SEIU Local 99 and its coalition, Child Care Providers United (CCPU), are negotiating with the state of California for increased payment rates and better working conditions, including changes to rules, payment systems, and access to affordable care.
Support & Uplift Grassroots Groups
Grassroots groups are powerful organizers, policy champions, and advocates, working tirelessly to demand a more equitable child care system for everyone.
To support their crucial, hands-on work, consider:
- Signing ballot initiatives and letters to policy makers
- Attending organized events
- Tweeting, calling, or meeting directly with your representatives
- Encouraging governors to act on pressing early childhood issues
[i] McLean, C., Austin, L.J.E., Whitebook, M., & Olson, K.L. (2021). Early Childhood Workforce Index – 2020. Berkeley, CA: Center for the Study of Child Care Employment, University of California, Berkeley. Retrieved from https://cscce.berkeley.edu/workforce-index-2020/report-pdf/