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The surprising life of a childcare worker

The cost of caring for a child in America keeps rising, but childcare workers' salaries are not. What's it like to take care of someone else's kid all day while you are being paid subpar wages for your work?

I don't usually post pieces that are political, but this is a topic that affects all of us who care about the next generation of children and the people who care for them while their parents hold jobs. Today, I'm thrilled to have a guest blogger/childcare worker give us some insight into what it's like for her. Her name is LiAnne Flakes, she is 40 and has been working in child care for 22 years. She currently works at the Bible Base Fellowship Childcare Center in Tampa and makes $10.75 an hour.

 

LiAnne Flakes

(LiAnne at an event outside the U.S. Capitol)

Here is LiAnne's story:

After working in child care for 22 years, I’ve seen firsthand how our broken child care system is holding our communities and our families back. Working parents can’t afford quality care, and child care workers can’t cover rent, groceries and basic bills for our families.

Each day, I care for and teach eight children between 10 months and 3-years-old, making sure that they eat healthy, learn to socialize and play and learn new words and songs. But I’m paid just $10.75 an hour to take care of our country’s most precious resource – our children. That means I can’t afford a car and health insurance.

Most child care workers are among the lowest paid workers in cities around the country. To be able to go to the grocery store is a luxury for me. Right now, my fridge is pretty empty – the last time I was able to buy groceries was about a month ago. 

Sadly, though, many parents are in the same situation, as far as not getting paid enough to afford rent, food and healthcare and relying on public assistance to survive. We’re in a system that’s not working for anyone – parents, children or child care workers. 

That’s why I joined the Fight for $15, and am joining with parents and our political leaders to call for a stronger child care system a $15 an hour wage for all child care workers.

Outside the US Capitol Building in Washington, DC, on Tuesday, I stood with parents, workers and members of Congress to announce a bold plan for a stable, reliable child care system and a stronger workforce that has the pay, training and support we need to provide the best care possible. Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici said at the event, “Families need a reliable and affordable child care system that’s available when they need it. And importantly, the care should be provided by skilled child care workers who are paid enough to support their families,”

In DC this week, I met child care workers, parents and families who are also struggling to juggle bills and make sure their kids are happy and safe when they are at work. She’tara Brown, a mother of three who works at the Dollar Tree in Tampa, and is paid $8.05 an hour told me that affordable care would change her life. Right now, her mom takes care of her 6-year-old and 3-year-old daughters and her 4-year-old son because she can’t afford center-based care. She told me, “I work so hard. But with what I’m making, I can’t support my kids. My check is $170 every two weeks. After lights, rent and necessities for my kids – like school supplies – I have nothing.”

I want to have children someday, but sometimes I think it’s a blessing that I don’t have any right now. It’s one thing if I go hungry, but an entirely different matter if a child doesn’t have enough to eat. The fact is too many families are working hard each day but can’t pay the bills like me and She’tara.  

Starting next week, child care providers, parents and members of Congress will be holding roundtables and town halls to discuss  policies that strengthen the childcare workforce and invest in affordable quality care. In the Fight for $15 we have already been taking our recommendations to elected leaders. In May, parents and child care workers met with Hillary Clinton to talk about what we need to provide the best care without living in poverty.

It hurts our entire community when hard-working parents can’t make ends meet and child care workers live in constant stress and anxiety about where to get their next meal. It’s time we had a child care system that supported all families and working parents – those who provide and those who need child care.

 

 

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