I’ve never understood conservatives’ visceral opposition to universal child care and robust programs to make sure that parents and children get adequate nutrition and early childhood education.
If you want families to stay intact and healthy to the point that they are able to bring up children who will be law-abiding taxpayers who contribute innumerable ways to a better society, those early, formative years are the most crucial for governments to fund fully so that they are not paying for crime and prisons later.
Reporters Cassandra Robertson, Tara McGuinness and Monée Fields-White have an article in The New Republic that uses new parents Diana Apresa and her husband Michael Romo as examples of parents who, after spending the huge sums of money that having a baby costs up-front, are then faced with the no-win situation of losing all or part of one parent’s income because to take care of a child because no affordable child care options exist:
Apresa and Romo are among the more than 12 million working parents with kids younger than six—a segment of the population that contends with a unique, economic double bind: without an option for paid leave, parents must find childcare in order to work and provide for their families (right after covering the exorbitant health costs for giving birth). But skyrocketing childcare costs often mean there’s nothing left over anyway. And the government—both at the state and federal level—has often left these families behind without any comprehensive solution for this unique stage of life.
The downstream consequences of this policy failure to support families are impossible to overstate. Early childhood is a critical time—children’s brains are forming more than a million neural connections per second as they approach three years old. Research has shown how poverty and low incomes can have a significant, negative long-term impact on a child’s wellbeing, while a recent study for the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that monthly cash payments to mothers during the first year of their children’s lives led to faster brain activity, “a pattern [positively] associated with learning and development at later ages.” The impacts also matter for society at large. The earliest years of a child’s life are hugely consequential. Care and family income are critical drivers here. Yet these earliest years from zero to five—the years that arguably ought to draw the most robust policy response—are also the most vulnerable, and served by piecemeal policy interventions that are not fully funded.
It’s time for a new approach to support families.
Today, U.S. spending on early childhood education and childcare as a percent of GDP is among the lowest in OECD countries. It is one of only two that does not cover health care costs, and we are the only high-wealth country without any type of guaranteed paid leave.
Good article that examines thoroughly the options available for this country if it truly cares about children and the parents trying to raise them. It’s not just the right thing to do morally. But it will save society much grief later on. Pay now, or pay later.