Bonamici Convenes Families, Advocates, Providers for Discussion About Access to Child Care
PORTLAND, OR [08/28/2019] – Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) convened a diverse group of advocates, families, and child care providers to hear more about the many challenges facing Oregon families who are seeking affordable, quality child care. Family Forward Oregon hosted the discussion.
“Working families in Oregon continue to pay some of the highest child care costs in the country,” said Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici. “In NW Oregon, I’ve heard from families who are struggling to cover the thousands of dollars they need every month for child care, and I’ve also heard concerns from child care providers who are working full time and not making a living wage. I’m grateful for the leadership of organizations like Family Forward Oregon that are working to address both cost and accessibility, and I’ll continue to be a strong voice in Congress on these issues. Child care is a good investment in our future. Children should not be denied a strong start in life because of their family's economic circumstances, and no parent should face the heartache of struggling to find and pay for child care.”
"It's time for bold action to address Oregon’s child care crisis and create a system that works for children, parents, providers, and employers,” said Andrea Paluso, Executive Director of Family Forward Oregon. “The scale of this crisis requires a large-scale response from both our state and our federal leaders, to create a system that has never existed in this country — a system that will make publicly-funded, high-quality child care readily available for every family that wants it. Congresswoman Bonamici has been a longtime champion for women and families, and we are excited to be able to share some of the experiences of Oregon mothers and child care providers as she works to drive change on child care in Washington, D.C."
Mothers and families testified about facing difficult choices as a result of the high cost of child care.
“The unrealistically high costs of child care are holding women, and single mothers especially, back from the economic mobility that we should all have,” said Laura Kirk, a mother of two in Beaverton. “As a single mom with two young kids, the only way I’ve been able to maintain work so I can support the three of us has been through the subsidies I qualified for during a time of unemployment — when I literally couldn’t afford to pay for child care and was let go from my job. I’m currently working three jobs to get by, which means that when I re-apply for Employment Related Daycare in November, I’ll no longer qualify for the lowest-tier co-pay I’m paying right now. A more expensive monthly payment will knock my already shaky budget out of line, and I’m worried that I won’t be able to afford child care again and that I’ll need to go back on TANF. I want to work, I just can’t afford to. If every parent had free access to quality child care, no one would be in the position I’ve been in for the last 6 years.”
“This lack of funding translates to high co-pays for parents and low pay and resources for providers, who are offering families what they might not find in center-based care, whether it’s availability during non-traditional hours for parents with unpredictable schedules, offering care in rural areas, or providing more individualized care for kids with disabilities,” said Natalie Jackson, a Friend, Family, Neighbor (FFN) provider, president of the SEIU child care union, and the child care provider for her three autistic grandchildren. “We certainly aren’t in it for the money. I’m a child care provider and a union member, and like my colleagues, I put my heart into serving some of our state’s most vulnerable families, and sometimes absorbing costs they can’t pay, because I want to do what’s best for the next generation of Oregonians.”
According to data from Oregon State University, 25 counties in the state are child care deserts for preschool-age children, where less than 33% of children have access to care. For infants and toddlers, the situation is more dire: For every eight children under three years old, only one child care slot is available. In addition to a lack of available spaces, Oregon is also one of the most expensive states for child care, consistently ranking in the top ten most expensive states using a variety of different metrics.
Bonamici is a leader on the House Education and Labor Committee and has been an outspoken advocate for improving child care and working family policies. She supports the Child Care for Working Families Act to expand access to affordable child care, and the Child Care Access Means Parents in School (CCAMPIS) Reauthorization Act to fund campus-based child care at colleges and universities. In 2015, she led an effort in the House calling for universal affordable child care. Bonamici has introduced bipartisan legislation to expand access to nutritious meals for young children in child care. Bonamici has also been a leader in calling for all workers to have access to paid family leave and a living wage.