Universal Childcare
October 16, 2018 9:38 AM   Subscribe

"At the same time we thrust new parents back into the labor market, we also insist that they comparison shop for childcare in a country with no national standards for quality, accessibility or safety. Nearly 11 million children, including over half of children below the age of one, spend an average of twenty-seven hours a week in some kind of childcare setting, yet the burden is on individual parents to assess the risks and benefits of a confusing, unaccountable, generally private system pieced together state by state for the care of our littlest and most vulnerable children. In essence, giving birth or adopting a child in America means you also take on the job of government regulator. It’s an impossible task, with occasionally tragic consequences." A Blueprint for Universal Childhood Care (Jacobin)
posted by The Whelk (25 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
 
If we can offer this high-quality, affordable program to military families, why can’t we offer it to all families? Aside from the benefits to her children’s well-being and her family’s finances, the parent notes:

We don't, to all of them. DoD day care is perennially full, up to the point where the wait can be months, or years, to get in. People are advised to get on the wait list at conception. It would have to be greatly, GREATLY expanded to serve as a model.
posted by zabuni at 9:52 AM on October 16, 2018 [5 favorites]


But having a child is not just a personal choice — it’s a matter of reproducing the species. It is not an act of selfishness that one should pay for, but an act of optimism and investment in society.

I guess it's harder for the layperson to grasp/too abstract to consider, but I really think we would have more success in implementing these programs (universal healthcare, universal childcare) if we could focus more on the investment and long-term returns/rewards from these programs. There's too much talk about "how does this benefit/inconvenience me now?" and not enough "how will this improve society in the next few generations?"
posted by hopeless romantique at 10:06 AM on October 16, 2018 [8 favorites]


I have always said that we need a kind of "social capital Works Progress Administration." Health care, addiction treatment/rehab, education, and child care. We need to pour the kind of money and infrastructure into this that is currently poured into the prison industrial complex.

A universal child care program would not just be good for parents, it would benefit children. Overworked, stressed-out parents are more likely to abuse their children. Universal child care would help relieve that stress. Children who are hidden from the community are more likely to be abused - think of how often this happens in fundamentalist, home-schooling communities. Well-trained teachers are another set of eyes to watch out for kids. And parents can learn more about effective child rearing from a set of experts - teachers and day-care workers trained in early childhood development.

Give me a universal WPA! Our infrastructure, our arts (the original WPA had programs for artists, writers, and musicians) and our social capital can only benefit.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 10:14 AM on October 16, 2018 [15 favorites]


Ugh. My daughter and her husband just went through the daycare search for their 7-month-old. It was a horror show. Just about all of them were full. They found a place (a chain. Rhymes with WinderBare. Avoid at all costs." that had an opening for an infant.

Of course, they grabbed the opening and hoped for the best. Unfortunately, the best never came. The mediocre never came, either. If the baby wasn't interested in her bottle when the caregiver decided it was morning bottle time, she went without the rest of the day until afternoon bottle time. Every day, when one of them came to pick-up their baby, they found her crying inconsolably and none of the caregiver paying any attention to her. A couple of times, she was crying face-down on the floor. Evenings with their baby became crazy difficult, with the baby constantly upset, and in dire need of attention, play, and just general emotional care. Needless to say, they yanked their baby out of there and started seriously doubting themselves as parents.

Luckily, they found a small daycare run by a church that was, more-or-less, on their way to work, and had an opening. The difference is like night and day. The baby is happy and seems to have acclimated well. The daycare is an open space with the older kids mingling and playing nearby, and she really loves watching them. The caregivers teach the older kids to be mindful of the babies and encourage interaction between the age groups. All the kids know the baby by name. Evenings at home with her are back to normal and relatively drama-free (for a baby.)
posted by Thorzdad at 10:31 AM on October 16, 2018 [11 favorites]


I haven't dug into this organization that mixes elder care with child care, but it looks hopeful.
posted by bilabial at 10:53 AM on October 16, 2018 [1 favorite]


As someone knee-deep in elder care for a grandmother with dementia right now while looking at wildly expensive daycare for my kid who will be born in 2 months, that's like my actual nightmare. The elderly can't look after themselves and staff routinely refuses to do it. I expect a lot of children to be shaken, traumatized, and set on fire.
posted by Yoko Ono's Advice Column at 10:55 AM on October 16, 2018 [2 favorites]


Thorzad WTF!!!! How is that day "care" allowed to keep operating! Makes me furious!!

We're lucky, daycare around here is affordable (8$/day) and supervised by gov regulations. But are still fretting over which daycare to choose because it seems even though none of the choices are bad (well not bad like that) as a parent you want the best for your child and you worry over everything.
posted by WaterAndPixels at 11:30 AM on October 16, 2018 [1 favorite]


We've basically paid for in-state college tuition out of pocket, which is probably why our facility (chain, a competitor to Thorzdad's) had an opening when we finally decided to try to get infant placement. I tell myself it's so expensive because they pay decent wages and provide benefits to their employees (and have expensive rent), but it is definitely one of the big reasons why there is only one little purr. Our county is looking into loosening some child care rules to the state's level to encourage more facilities to open, but sometimes I wonder why they couldn't open a bunch of places, or let us join the employee daycare at our local elementary school.

And don't get me started on the "academic requirements" already pushed to preschoolers in the "prestige" facilities. Luckily our kid likes learning to read and write letters and numbers, and the academic stuff is limited to a few hours, but it's basically kindergarten and early first grade at this point.
posted by Hermeowne Grangepurr at 11:45 AM on October 16, 2018 [2 favorites]


I think that bad and abusive facilities are not something that is baked into the nature of child care (and elder care, for that matter). Rather, we get what we pay for, etc. If caregiving was appropriately compensated, well respected, and took place with decent working conditions, we'd see much better care and less abuse.

Take those much-vaunted factory jobs - they aren't "good jobs" because there is something innate to factory work that, for instance, child care or nursing aide jobs don't have. Unions, union organizers, and socialists busted their butts and sweated blood for decades to make these jobs "good" ones.

I wish child care workers would unionize. But I think some sort of WPA for the caring professions would be a good start.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 12:07 PM on October 16, 2018 [7 favorites]


P.S.: Hermeowne GrangePurr - if I had a dollar for every parent I've heard say that child care costs are why they stopped with one child, I'd be worth millions. Society makes it so difficult and expensive to have a child, or have more than one child, and then is all surprised when women opt out or stop at one. Then of course we're not doing our womanly duty.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 12:09 PM on October 16, 2018 [8 favorites]


Well that article went every which where by the end! I wish the writer had spent more time talking about WHY these public services (parental leave, universal subsidized childcare) cannot be won on the basis of appeals to fairness and gender equality? Did I miss something? Is this article part of a larger book? I'm a bit lost.
posted by MiraK at 12:10 PM on October 16, 2018 [1 favorite]


Just read this today. This sweet baby was left alone in a room for several hours and choked on his own spit and died.
posted by KleenexMakesaVeryGoodHat at 12:22 PM on October 16, 2018


[Couple comments deleted. If you hate pregnancy and babies and whatever, feel free to keep it to yourself.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 12:32 PM on October 16, 2018 [14 favorites]


If we can offer this high-quality, affordable program to military families, why can’t we offer it to all families?

Probably because it's not scalable. You can't compare daycare on a military base / area leveraging military base / area infrastructure and military family discipline to trying to set-up daycare in areas not supported by, well, a military attitude about things.

Every time, the conversation (daycare, healthcare, education etc) comes down to scalability across the American landscape politically, geographically, culturally and hell even climate wise. This is not a one-sized fit all approach. This country is 50 states, not one monolith.

And before you go nuts, yes I think this is a problem the government should look to explore and support positive outcomes.
posted by lstanley at 12:42 PM on October 16, 2018


Like Hermeowne Grangepurr, we are paying the equivalent of an in state college tuition (for one of the lower priced state schools but still) for daycare for my toddler. And I consider this to be a reasonably priced location - I could be paying $2000 more a year easily at another location.

And we were on the waiting list for this location for a year and a half. We had my daughter in another facility (also wonderful, but tacking 40minutes daily onto my commute because it was the opposite direction of work).

Before we had my daughter my husband was shocked at the $900+ a month sticker price of some of the daycare’s I was researching and couldn’t believe that it really cost that much. Yep. It really does. At the low end.
posted by kellygrape at 1:02 PM on October 16, 2018


With all the scientific evidence supporting claims that the quality of the first couple of years of a child's life is pivotal in her later success and happiness, it is a crime to make sure childcare is substandard by paying childcare workers so little.

As others have suggested, this is just one outcome of an American system that pays little attention to the quality of human life, and much attention to profit margins.
posted by kozad at 1:30 PM on October 16, 2018 [5 favorites]


And as a side note, our facility posts all of the violation/inspection notices near the check in/out kiosk, and although I believe that ours is a good facility, and the administrators and teachers really care for the kids, there is probably a surprise inspection and a violation found about once a month or once every other month. Some are paperwork or policy-related (vs. actual neglect violations), or no violation was found as a result of the inspection, but there are a TON of hoops for a child care facility who wants to follow the law. Labor rules, mounds of paperwork, a variety of policy development and the subsequent staff training, illness reports, mandatory reporting, food AND sanitary issues, and not not mention just keeping the kids happy, engaged and emotionally well adjusted. On top of that, these facilities are mostly run and operated by women, and the teachers are often young women, which means society devalues it as a whole.

.... Jeez, maybe I need to bring in a bagel platter for them tomorrow...

Also, I think some military families get stipends instead of base childcare placement, so if you really wanted to help expand it, a higher refundable childcare credit (NOT the tax deductible Dependent Care Benefits) would potentially go a long way.
posted by Hermeowne Grangepurr at 1:42 PM on October 16, 2018


Probably because it's not scalable. You can't compare daycare on a military base / area leveraging military base / area infrastructure and military family discipline to trying to set-up daycare in areas not supported by, well, a military attitude about things.

Every time, the conversation (daycare, healthcare, education etc) comes down to scalability across the American landscape politically, geographically, culturally and hell even climate wise. This is not a one-sized fit all approach. This country is 50 states, not one monolith.


There are many places in the world where childcare is free or heavily subsidized, and also well-regulated. Some of these places are huge countries and some of them small. Sweden is something like Michigan, not only in size but also in demographics. So there is no reason Michigan couldn't have universal healthcare, subsidized childcare and great care for the elderly. Denmark and Singapore are more like Minnesota, and also manage to have all of these welfare solutions.
Unlike what most people seem to think, both Sweden, Denmark and Singapore are capitalist societies, with immensely rich inhabitants alongside poorer people. Sweden and Singapore are also very diverse nations. As are Australia, Germany and France, that are comparable to larger US states. It's not like hard work and entrepreneurship die out if basic living conditions are provided for a whole population, contrariwise.
There are also places in Latin America that have excellent childcare, healthcare and care for the elderly, but I am not knowledgable enough about those -- maybe some other mefites are?

I'm always a bit sorry about commenting on US conditions, because hey, I don't live there and it is a failure of grace to look down on other people's living arrangements. But you guys influence the economy and politics of the whole world, including my corner of it, and your stupid mistakes will be supported and even reproduced by locals here because they fall for the Hollywood version of the US; and for what a privileged person sees when he visits the US on holiday or a scholarship (mostly a he, women tend to notice what else is going on). Look at the Iraq war. Or the insanity of Brexit. We can't vote at your elections, but sometimes it feels right to comment when you are actively hurting yourself and can't seem to find a way to stop doing it.
posted by mumimor at 1:50 PM on October 16, 2018 [16 favorites]


I've got to be honest, the difference between promising free college and free daycare is the difference between someone posing and someone who actually has a handle on the needs of America. Of course there should be both, but if you're campaigning on college and not daycare, your "progressivism" isn't.
posted by OmieWise at 7:56 AM on October 17, 2018 [3 favorites]


I was lucky enough to have access to a wonderful licensed daycare center, and I can say that that’s only the start. The culture shock when my kids reached school age was a tremendous. Suddenly I was in a world where the default assumption was that someone was at home all the time to handle the teacher institute days, half days, week-long or summer-long breaks. Meaningful subsidized child care can’t end at school age.
posted by Ralston McTodd at 8:49 AM on October 17, 2018 [7 favorites]


Before we had my daughter my husband was shocked at the $900+ a month sticker price of some of the daycare’s I was researching and couldn’t believe that it really cost that much. Yep. It really does. At the low end.

Oh, yeah. This Brooklyn lady right here is looking at $2500/month for day care. Haven't found anything cheaper in my area.
posted by Yoko Ono's Advice Column at 10:36 AM on October 18, 2018 [1 favorite]


The theme of this issue of Jacobin is Childhood, and while the Erickson piece is really good. the rest of it, especially the Catherine Liu article, is recommended.

My wife, who is not a socialist, saw the cover and promptly read it cover to cover before I even broke it out of the shrink wrap.

This is a big issue for us. We've managed to find a good day care for our two munchkins, but it pains us to no end that while we pay tens of thousands of dollars each year, the women who work at the center can't even make enough money to send their own kids there.

Universal pre-K was one of the issues that came up last year in the Dem gubernatorial primary; I'm hoping that we'll see more pressure next year on the issue.
posted by daHIFI at 11:19 AM on October 19, 2018 [1 favorite]


We've managed to find a good day care for our two munchkins, but it pains us to no end that while we pay tens of thousands of dollars each year

Wait. You pay over $20,000/year for childcare for two preschool-aged kids? Is this normal? Or is that a typo?
posted by paleyellowwithorange at 1:25 AM on October 20, 2018


When I lived in New York, pre-school was 700 dollars a month for part time, and with me working there for one day a week as co-pay. This is 20 years ago.
posted by mumimor at 10:21 AM on October 20, 2018


$200 to $250/week isn't unusual which works out to $10k to $12k for one kid in my large urban area and I've heard similar (or higher) numbers across the country
posted by typecloud at 2:11 PM on October 22, 2018


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