Investing In Child Care Workers Is Crucial

Professional caregivers, including child care employees, are among the most underpaid and under-appreciated workers in the United States. They work long hours caring for people's loved ones, but receive little pay and lack benefits and job security. But a new report proves why investing in child care work is important to a kid's future.

In a report published Wednesday, the Georgetown Center on Poverty and Inequality proposed that investing in caregiving labor market would promote the well-being of children, as well as older adults, people with disabilities, and their families. Putting more resources into the caregiving workforce would boost jobs and improve the quality of care, which would have tremendous benefits for child care workers and the families they look after.

In fact, research has proven that high-quality care has an enormous impact on a kid's future success. A 2016 study published the University of Chicago shows that children enrolled in high-quality care when they are younger are more likely to earn more as adults and lead healthier lives. And, according to the Urban Child Institute, high-quality and affordable care can have positive impacts on a child's behavior, emotions, and economic well-being.

Yet, the child care service industry is barely supported. The lack of funding and proliferation of low-wage positions has led to poor quality of care and high turnover, according to the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment.

That's not surprising considering the imbalance between pay and work expectations. Child care workers have to dress, feed, bathe, teach, and supervise kids every day. In many cases, they take on the role of a second or third parent. But they make little to show for their hard work. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the mean hourly wage for a child care worker is $11.02 — one-third of what it costs to buy a seven-day unlimited MetroCard in New York City. A full-time child care employee who rides the subway to work would have to log four hours, when calculating in taxes, in order to afford to travel to-and-from their job each week. They would have to work more than 11 hours to afford the monthly pass.

But, the Georgetown Center on Poverty and Inequality argued, investing in caregivers helps more than the industry. In a statement released by Fight for $15, California-based child care worker Tonia MacMillan said,

By investing in early learning, providers like me will be able to take care of our own families and stay in the profession we love. Parents and providers understand that quality child care starts with raising pay. Parents and providers also understand that we need meaningful investments to make quality care more affordable for our families.

In other words: If you want better futures for children, give their caregivers better lives.