Parent Voices Amplify Importance of Child Care Assistance in the Senate

Jul 27, 2012

By Hannah Matthews

It's been a busy week in the Senate, with child care a particularly hot topic. On Tuesday, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education held a hearing on the impact that upcoming automatic funding cuts will have on education programs. Senator Harkin's report, Under Threat, details how these  indiscriminate funding cuts will impact children and families' access to  education, health and human services, and labor programs, including state by state data. According to the report:

  • 96,179 fewer children would be served in Head Start and 80,000 fewer children would receive child care subsidies,
  • 26,949 fewer infants and toddlers would receive early intervention services,
  • 5 million fewer families would receive help with maternal and child health needs,
  • 211,958 fewer children would receive childhood immunizations,
  • 1.8 million fewer disadvantaged students would receive education services through Title I, and
  • 145,180 fewer students would be served in 21st Century Community Schools out of school time programs.

Following the hearing, a crowd gathered outside of the Capitol to show concern about these pending cuts, which are slated to begin in January of next year. Supporters  of critical education, health, human services, and workforce programs came together to tell Congress that indiscriminate cuts to "non-defense discretionary"-the inside beltway name for these domestic programs-are unacceptable , particularly as the lowest-income families have already experienced the worst impacts of the economic downturn. Speaking at the rally was Rita Ngabo, a child care case worker in Maryland, who relied on child care assistance during a difficult spell in her life. Now, she helps other families get the help they need to develop job skills and go to work. You can watch Rita tell her compelling story on NWLC's blog.  

More activities highlighting child care assistance followed throughout the week:

  • On Wednesday, Senator Franken (D-MN) introduced the Infant and Toddler Care Improvement Act, co-sponsored by Senators Murray (D-WA) and Sanders (I-VT). This legislation would provide funding to support infant/toddler caregivers in improving the quality of care they provide; fund family child care networks to support home-based caregivers; establish statewide networks of infant/toddler specialists; and strengthen training and professional development for caregivers. CLASP is proud to have worked with our partner organizations and Senator Franken's office to develop this bill and hopes other Senators recognize the importance of quality care in the earliest years of children's lives and support the bill.
  • On Thursday, the Senate Subcommittee on Children and Families held a hearing on Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) reauthorization. Subcommittee Chair Mikulski (D-MD) and Ranking Member Burr (R-NC) have both expressed their support for moving a bipartisan reauthorization bill forward. In her opening remarks, Senator Mikulski discussed the importance of improving child care without sacrificing access to the program. A distinguished panel of witnesses spoke at the hearing, but perhaps most moving was the conclusion made by Susana Coro, a parent and recipient of child care subsidies. Susana told the Committee, "We work very hard, we want the best for our kids-for every kid in this country....Please help our children be successful in life."

The message is clear: child care assistance helps families work and children learn. Child care assistance makes a difference in the lives of individuals who have fallen on hard times and gives them the support they need to help their families financially and see their children succeed. Congress can-and should-take action to protect the lowest-income families from a great deal of harm that would come in taking away these vital services. As policymakers move ahead with budget and appropriations work, they must take a balanced approach to dealing with the country's deficit - an approach that doesn't harm vulnerable families. That means not only looking at reductions in spending, but also increases in revenues.

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