Eschew the rise of the post-”Ozzie and Harriet” mentality all you want, but family life has changed dramatically over the past few generations.
Stay-at-home motherhood is no longer an option for many households. A temperamental middle-class existence all but mandates both parents work. For the rising number of single-parent households, there is no alternative.
That makes child care a critical element of family life.
Although some help is available through programs such as Illinois Child Care Assistance, the loss of such programs as Child Care and Development Block Grants has placed more of the financial burden on already strained pocketbooks.
That – and costs that have grown eight times faster than income – have put the average yearly child-care tab at $13,000. That is about 50 percent of an average single mother’s income and a sixth of the average family’s income, according to a report by Child Care Aware.
That puts Illinois seventh from the bottom of affordable child care among all states.
What happens as a result is that parents who cannot turn to a family member for help must choose child care based not on such things as social development and learning potential but solely on cost.
Experts believe that is likely to create a situation in which the child falls behind the developmental level of other children, and that gap can be hard to close.
“The story should be about finding ways to fairly compensate the highly skilled work force that we need to support our youngest learners and to find policy solutions and programmatic solutions for parents so that they can have access to the quality care that every child needs,” according to Christine Robinson, director of public policy and advocacy at Illinois Action for Children.
Child care is an opportunity. It is a chance to form a lifelong interest in personal and educational development that will reap benefits for not only the children and families but also for the social well-being of communities.
In today’s reality, it is not a handout, but rather an investment.
The (Alton) Telegraph