Guest Blog By Tia, Wisconsin Resident, Prenatal Care Coordinator at A Mother First LLC
Kids Forward – the oldest advocacy organization for children and families in the nation – recently created a multimedia section of its website, which was made possible due to a grant Kids Forward received from Voices for Healthy Kids, an initiative of the American Heart Association. Kids Forward uses these stories to advance its public policy efforts to find effective, long-lasting solutions that break down barriers to success for children and families in Wisconsin, notably children and families of color and those furthest from opportunity. This is one of those stories.
Many people don't know this, but children develop from zero to three more than any other part of life. During that time, it’s essential for kids to get those motor skills—for them to have cognitive, emotional and language development. My daughter Ricki will be two soon. She’s been enrolled in child care since she was three months old. That was something that I wanted for her, because I knew that being in a thriving and educational environment is essential for her development. Also, in a child care environment, there's an opportunity to have access to additional services if disabilities or delays are present.
To afford Ricki’s child care, I had to cut my income in half, working part-time in order to qualify for state-assisted daycare. If I would’ve returned to work full-time, I wouldn't have qualified. This put me in a position where I couldn't afford rent and other life finances. I was able to move back in with my parents, but everybody doesn't have support like that. In July 2020, I contracted COVID, and I had to quarantine for 14 days by myself. It was really difficult. Thank God my brush with COVID was pretty mild, but I know everybody doesn't have a mild COVID experience. During that time, my daughter was cared for by other caregivers, but everybody doesn't have that either.
Affordable child care would allow people to maintain some amount of financial stability, and provide a nurturing environment for their children while they’re working. It's essential for parents to work in order to afford a household. The income limit for subsidized child care is pretty low, and if you make anything over that amount you don't qualify. So, if you take that income deduction in order to qualify for state-funded child care, then you're making even less money.
One thing I wish could be different is the transportation factor. A lot of child care facilities don’t offer transportation. I feel like the people setting policy don’t understand the realities of working parents with limited income. For example, I know parents with children enrolled in child care, and they don't have vehicles. You have to catch the city bus to drop the child off, catch the bus to work, catch the bus to pick the child up, and then catch the bus to go home. That adds extreme stress on a parent, on top of their work engagements. If you have a job on one side of town and your child care provider is on the other side of town, that's a big barrier when it comes to getting to work on time, or making it home super late to cook dinner for your family.
I'm a prenatal care coordinator. I work with women to ensure they have the resources necessary to be the best mothers possible. The biggest issue I see is that they don't know how to navigate even enrolling for state benefits. For a new mom or a mom who's never used child care before, they really struggle when it comes to submitting an application, following up or getting the authorization. It's not an easy process, and if you're not familiar with it, you can easily become frustrated and give up. If you give up, that means you can't go to work because you don't have anybody to watch your child.
When I became a mother, there were times where I sat down with service providers and because I was seeking out those services, I was made to feel less than. These people knew nothing about me—that I’m a high school grad, I have a bachelor's degree, and I'm a master's level student. Just off stigmas, they can make you feel a type of way because you want to utilize community resources. That can easily impact a new mother who may be experiencing postpartum depression and trying to pull herself out—you're made to feel low just because you're attempting to utilize the resources available.
Raising a healthy child is the foundation. As children grow up, you want them to have certain traits and skills, so when they go off into the world, they're capable of handling themselves. I want so badly for my daughter to be social. I want her to be smart. I want her to really invest in her education and future. Right now, my daughter is enrolled full time in a home childcare program. I know that she's partaking in a lot of physical activity. She comes home, she's singing new songs. I get to see the growth in her.