Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., hosted a virtual event with the Biden for President campaign on Thursday afternoon to discuss the former vice president’s Build Back Better plan and how it will address caregiving for both children and adults in long-term care.
As the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact has spanned beyond healthcare into almost every aspect of life, parents of children needing care are finding that the closures of these facilities are presenting challenges for families across the nation and the state of Michigan.
Duckworth opened the discussion by emphasizing the need for the presidential administration to understand the struggles with child care that Americans face.
“I think it’s important to have people in leadership like Joe Biden who understand the everyday struggles of Americans,” Duckworth said.
The panel also discussed why early childhood education is important for long-term success for children. Duckworth mentioned how Biden’s plan for child care is beneficial to working parents.
“Studies have shown time and time and time again that how well a child does in preschool and kindergarten affects their reading level,” Duckworth said. “This also affects whether or not they go onto college –– everything starts with child care and in preschool. Having universal preschool in Joe’s plan was really critical and I’m so proud of him for including that.”
Deandrea Murray, owner of Geniuses on Board: Child Development & Learning Center in Southfield, Mich. and a mother of four children, said early childhood education is only one aspect of education that makes careers accessible to children.
“We started out with six, then grew to 12, and are now in a facility that serves over 90 families,” Murray said. “Early childhood (education) should be an experience that goes beyond ABCs (and) 1,2,3s. They should have as many experiences as possible, be it science, engineering or extracurricular activities.”
Priscilla Fernandez works as a part-time lab assistant in Muskegon, Mich., but says she often works more than the standard 24 hours per week. Her daughter recently had surgery and she emphasized the difficulty of finding specialized child care amidst a global pandemic.
“It’s hard for me to find someone who can take care of my kids, to take care of her,” Fernandez said. “She just had surgery, she needs assistance right now, and with everything that is going on I have noticed that the prices are going up. There are so many limitations that they are putting up for us. Some places will only (take) so many kids (or certain) ages.”
Fernandez also talked about the struggles with finding reliable and safe places to send children.
“(All) the little details, as a mom, I get really nervous, and it's been tough finding places that you can trust,” Fernandez said. “They tell you they are licensed, they show you (their) license and you call the number and realize they are not active. Those little things, they make me so worried.”
Duckworth said the only way to ensure these goals can be accomplished is to ensure that these caregivers are receiving appropriate compensation and respect for their work.
“We have to treat caregivers and early childhood educators with the respect and dignity and compensation that they deserve,” Duckworth said. “We have to subsidize their training, we have to provide them with a career ladder for higher paying jobs, the chance to join a union and other fundamental work-related rights and protection.”
Duckworth also discussed how Biden plans to fund these policies through subsidies to ensure that individuals are not spending their entire paycheck on child care.
“He will assure that there will be access to high-quality, affordable child care and offer universal preschool to 3 and 4-year-olds through greater investment, expanded tax credits and a sliding scale subsidy,” Duckworth said. “Under his plan, no family will spend more than 7 percent of their income on childcare.”
Fernandez spoke at the end of the event with optimism that a Biden presidency could bring necessary change to the caregiving industry.
“I can’t wait,” Fernandez said. “I can’t wait for a new change, a new beginning, a new world. With everything going on it’s just scary, and I am looking forward to seeing a big change.”
Summer News Editor Sarah Payne can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.