BOSTON (CBS) – Finding good, quality child care is THE challenge for many families. “If you talk with people, they’ll always have an experience to share,” says Executive Director for Women’s Advancement, Tania Del Rio. “We know, anecdotally, that child care is an issue for many working parents.”
Now, for the first time, Boston is working to document the need for affordable child care. Starting this month, it is including an anonymous survey with the current census. The questionnaire asks parents what kind of child care they use, how they found it and what it costs. The city will compile information to create a “picture” of working families in Boston and will make all the information available to the public. The city already projects that IF child care were more accessible and affordable, there would be 4,000 more working women in Boston.
Not working creates a “snowball effect” that—disproportionately–hurts women. Women who don’t work don’t earn Social Security. They don’t save for retirement. And they don’t use professional skills that can get rusty. “I call it a crisis that’s flying under the radar,” Del Rio says. “Massachusetts is the most expensive state in the country for child care. Right now, it costs more than UMass tuition.”
Working mother Tyiesha Thompson knows how expensive it is and how hard it is to find. Over the years, she has had to be very creative in finding child care. She is a construction worker whose workday begins at 6:00am. “Most child care is 9-to-5 and I need child care at 5:00am.” Her eldest son, Isaiah, is working as a plumber. But her two younger sons, Jason and Joshua are still in school.
With no early morning day care available, she relies on Jason to help Joshua get ready for school before a neighbor arrives to drive Joshua to school. She agrees, it’s stressful. “It is! It’s so important to have child care because if you don’t have someone to take care of your kids you can’t go to work…I tell ‘em, hell or high water, I’m going to work.”
Forty eight years ago, Congress passed universal child care. President Nixon vetoed it. Since then, there’s been virtually no effort—at a national level—to address a problem that affects millions of working parents (or parents who want to work) nationwide. But calls for solutions and support are growing louder. And, with its survey, Boston is doing what no other city has done before—putting hard numbers to the problem with the idea that, eventually, those numbers will help craft solutions. “We’re trying to find the nuances of the problem so we know what kind of policies and programs to put in place to help families,” Del Rio explains.
Thompson applauds the city’s effort. She says her sons understand the importance of her career and the challenges she faces to make sure they have good care while she is working. She wants to set a good example. “I know my sons love me unconditionally. I get random hugs and ‘I love you-s’ all the time. I just want to show them that you have to work to make it…no one’s going to give you anything.”
A proud mom, she tells WBZ’s Lisa Hughes, “I tell them all the time—you can be anything you want to be. Look at Mom. I’m working in construction. I feel like I can do anything…the sky’s the limit.”