by Melissa Schmitt

Many of us at Long Story Short juggle our responsibilities as parents and full-time media professionals, and somehow make it work every day. As a working mother with two children under the age of five in full-time child care, I know personally what a struggle it is to find available, quality care, and to be able to afford it when you find it.

That’s why I’m honored that LSS was tapped by New America, a DC-based think tank, and their partner, to create a video series in support of the Care Report, an in-depth study on the cost, quality and availability of childcare across the United States.

I traveled to four states with the New America team – New Mexico, Georgia, Massachusetts, and Illinois – helping to tell the stories of the people who rely on our country’s child care infrastructure either for care or employment.

What we found is a fragmented system that isn’t working for anyone. We interviewed families who are spending more than their mortgage on child care – a refrain I heard again and again.

We talked with an in-home provider who makes at most, $8.50 an hour to care for four children.

We heard from day care center administrators with waiting lists and desires to expand their businesses, but can’t do so because their staff is leaving for better paying jobs in public schools.

Early child care teachers told us they struggle to make ends meet for their own families, and they think about having to leave the industry even though they love the work.

Over the course of travel to four states, I saw very clearly that child care is an issue that affects everyone – whether you are a parent or not. In Georgia alone, the child care industry is a $4.7 billion industry, on par with the economic impact of Home Depot and Lowe’s stores in that state. It’s an industry that supports 500,000 workers in Georgia to go to work, workers who bolster their local economies with their productivity. Every. Single. Day.

And with so many working families out there, I also saw that the child care system is helping to shape our next generation of workers. We had an enlightening interview with a child development expert about the importance of quality child care. He told us that to connect the 100 billion neurons babies are born with, children need to hear 11 million words directed at them, either by a loved one or caregiver they are deeply connected with – by the age of three.

This sets children on a path of learning that lasts the rest of their lives. It’s a task that falls squarely on the shoulders of child care providers, an awesome responsibility that everyone in our country has the interest in supporting.

Working families and child care providers have been struggling, mostly silently, with these issues for far too long. We’re proud to have been given the opportunity to work with the dedicated team at New America- Brigid Schulte, Alieza Durana and Elizabeth Weingarten, to help families and workers raise their voices. We encourage everyone to take some time to read New America’s detailed Care Report – and to watch the short videos we produced.

It’s our hope that affordable, available, quality child care will finally become part of the national conversation.

Click here to read the report and watch the videos:
New America:

Click below to watch the story of Micki and Jason Velmer, who are paying tuition for full-time child care – before their baby is even born:

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And read some of the many new articles featuring the New America Care Report: