Throughout the nation, women are struggling to maintain their jobs, make ends meet and secure quality child care for their children. Child care is a critical necessity of every working mother. Those most harmed by the lack of access to affordable child care are families headed by single mothers. In Washington, D.C., the 2000 census showed that 53% of children living in poverty come from single-women headed households.

Empower DC, a grassroots organization based in Washington, D.C., has brought mothers together in an initiative called The Child Care for All Campaign. The campaign is mobilizing to raise awareness and demand funding for D.C.’s Child Care Subsidy program. The program in the District of Columbia, much like those in other cities, provides vouchers for free or reduced-cost child care based on a family’s income and family size. However, like other cities, D.C. has not fully funded the Child Care Subsidy program, leaving 60% of eligible families without this critical support. Since June 2002, a waiting list for child care vouchers was put into place for low-income working families, arguably those most in need of this form of support.

Who should care about access to quality, affordable child care? All those who are concerned for women’s rights, reproductive freedom, workforce support, early childhood education, and lifting families out of poverty. The moms leading the Child Care for All Campaign are determined that in their lifetime, they will see a shift in awareness around the importance of affordable child care, and in turn we will all see the uplift of our communities that we so often dream of. They are taking the bold step of telling their stories to educate policy makers, recruit allies and mobilize others who are directly affected by this critical issue. Following are some stories of members of the Child Care For All Campaign.

“I am a single mother of three, working full time. Not having access to dependable, affordable and quality child care has kept me from pursuing many work opportunities that would have made a world of difference to me and my daughters. The lack of affordable child care had a domino effect on our lives. I lost my job downtown, and then I was evicted after I could not pay the rent, leaving the children and me to live in an abandoned building for two weeks. Not having a job or money to pay for housing led to nutritional and health issues as well. When I wasn’t able to take care of the children, my self-esteem and self-confidence suffered greatly.

“As a result of having to live like we did and go through such trials, when I heard the saying “D.C. Doesn’t Work Without Child care” it was more than a slogan to me. I joined the Child Care for All Campaign, and now I work hard on the campaign doing outreach, fundraising, increasing visibility in the community and talking to people about joining us in the struggle for affordable child care. I am passionate and committed to the issue because I know the effects of not having child care. I encourage other mothers to join us because I know first hand how it will help them grow self-confidence and model for their children to stand up for themselves and demand what is needed for all members of our community to live with dignity.”
–Daynna Dixon

“Child care is vital. Every working parent needs child care. My five-year-old daughter, Stephanie, has been fortunate to have the opportunity of receiving subsidized quality child care at the “Village Child Development Center” in Northwest D.C. We have been part of the “Nation’s Capitol Child & Family Development” family since she was three-years old. At the center she has not only grown physically but also mentally, emotionally, and developed the social and motor skills that will enable her to succeed in elementary school. Of course, perhaps I myself could have accomplished all of the above by caring for her myself. As you know, parents are the first teachers. Yes, this is so true, but if one does not work how will the rent and bills get paid? Any suggestions?

“Although my daughter will no longer need child care, from experience I recommend that every child should attend a child development center. Eligibility should not be a factor for a child’s future. Every eligible family should be able to receive affordable quality child care without having to be put on the long waiting list. When will the long waiting list get shorter if the city keeps under-funding the program? Due to this money saving “strategy,” many child care centers have been forced to close, providers have lost their jobs, parents have quit their jobs, and most importantly, D.C. children are being denied this important stepping-stone.”
–Patricia Garcia

“I am a low-income working parent and was recently denied assistance for child care. I was told because none of my children had a disability, I wasn’t on TANF, and wasn’t a teen mother in school, I was not eligible. I was devastated to learn that the working low-income families were basically cut out of the budget.

“I have been off TANF and in the work force for three years now. As a result of the budget cuts my children have become latch key kids; my youngest child has had to go to a series of babysitters instead of being in a quality child development center, and my children eat less because my food budget has been cut in order for me to afford aftercare for my baby. Because of many unreliable babysitters I am often absent or late for work. My employer is wonderful and very supportive, but even with that my job is on the line. After all, the work still has to get done. I have often thought I should just quit my job and go back on TANF. I go to work every day in fear that I could come home to an empty apartment because child protective services will have my children.”
–Robin Williams

“Without the child care assistance program, my daughter and I both will become displaced in today’s society. This program was set up to give me and other low income families the opportunity to improve our lives and our children’s lives by being able to participate in job training programs to allow us to obtain suitable employment opportunities that will enable us to become self supporting parents to our children.

“Child care assistance is a critical pathway to building stronger and self-supporting single and low-income families. Without this program we have no hope for better futures for our children.”
–Gail Williams

For more information about the Child Care for All Campaign, contact Empower DC at 202-234-9119 or parisa@empowerdc.org. National child care resources can be found on the web at www.nccic.org and www.acf.dhhs.gov/programs/ccb.