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Lauren Hipp's picture

Moms and parents across the country are rising up to share their stories, once again demonstrating that a care economy and a country that prioritizes and invests in care is the path to prosperity. Policies like affordable childcare, nutrition supplements like affordable child care, Paid Family and Medical Leave, and an expanded Child Tax Credit (CTC),  have been proven time and time again to benefit us all. These stories are a call to action for every decision maker across our country to take action and create a world where children, families, and our economy can thrive.

Below you'll find the stories from all over the United States, illustrating the impact of (a lack of) care policies on children, moms, families, communiites, and our economy. You'll see stories about the impact of policies ranging from affordable child care, an expanded Child Tax Credit (CTC), Paid Family and Medical Leave, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA), The Nursing Mothers (PUMP) Act, Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), Abortion Care, and Home and Community Based Services (HCBS).

Child Care
Rachael is a 33-year-old mother with three children (8-year-old daughter, 4-year-old son and nearly 2-year-old son). She was a teacher for many years in the Washington, DC area.  She and her husband moved to Seneca, SC, in 2022, thinking the cost of living would be much more affordable. In the spring of 2023, she accepted a high school teaching position that was to start in September.  In March, she started looking into childcare options for her two youngest children. She was shocked that many child care programs didn’t even respond to her calls and emails. Those that did respond had long wait lists. She finally found a program but it was going to cost $1,400/per month, meaning her entire paycheck would only cover the cost of child care. The family also needed to find afterschool care for their 8-year-old daughter. She ultimately decided to leave her job before the school year started. Money has been tight for the family. 

Child Care + Paid Leave + PUMP + PWFA + CTC 
Nancy is a mom of two, a 3-year-old and a 1-year-old, in Warminster, PA. When she was pregnant with her oldest, she was working part-time as a music teacher at a bilingual English/French school. She says she was given "zero accommodations" while pregnant. She struggled with climbing the stairs and getting on and off of the floor. “I can't think of anyone I know who got pregnancy accommodations.” She didn't have any paid leave, and neither did her husband, which caused a crisis on top of a crisis when she had an emergency c-section and an extremely difficult recovery. Their health insurance wouldn't cover home health services, so during this time, her husband had to work full-time while also caring for their son, repacking Nancy's wound each day, and driving them to doctor's appointments. Ultimately, she didn't return to her job and has been forced out of the workforce ever since because she can’t find affordable child care. "Breastfeeding is one of the reasons I didn't return to my job. My teaching schedule would not have allowed me to pump enough to maintain my supply.” She’s “thrilled” about the PWFA and PUMP and wants lawmakers to invest in paid leave and child care.
Child Care + Paid Leave +  CTC 
Christina and her husband had their first child in August 2021; they are both teachers. Christina took twelve weeks of unpaid FMLA, and her husband cobbled together four weeks of paid leave by using sick and personal time. At that time, her mom was battling stage 4 lung cancer. “I was trying to fit in trips down to see my mom who lived about 4 hours away. I was able to visit her 4 times but it was very difficult because we had no family available to help care for our son and my husband needed to save his leave.” After draining their savings to cover unpaid leave, they had to start paying $1,600/month for child care – 50% of Christina’s income – which caused enormous financial strain and forced them to put basic expenses on credit cards. They moved to Colorado in June 2022, in part due to the high cost of living in Virginia. They downsized significantly but couldn't find affordable child care. Christina took a job at a child care program, but the program was severely understaffed and she was frequently working 50+ hours each week. She left that position because it was unsustainable, and now works remotely as a contractor. She is slowly building up her client base while caring for her son at the same time. She currently works 10-15 hours a week, and they continue to struggle to make ends meet. 
Child Care + Paid Leave 
Lydia is a kindergarten teacher and her husband is a web designer. They live in Florida. They have a 2-year-old, born April 2021. She got two months of paid maternity leave which happened to end as summer break started – otherwise she would have struggled to return to work just 8 weeks after giving birth. Finding child care when she returned to work was really a struggle. “A lot of places in Sarasota don’t take kids until they’re walking. That could be 12-18 months." They found a great in-home program that cost $6k/year for 3 days/week, and Lydia's mom cared for her the other two days. But then her daughter aged out and they had to start over. "Eventually, we found a lovely private school but it’s extremely expensive. If we sent her full time, it’d be $15,000/year. If we had a second child, we’d need to enroll our daughter in full-time care, so that’s a barrier. It’s draining mentally and financially. We don’t have pre-k here.”

Child Care + WIC + CTC
Taylor has three young boys (11 months old, 2 years old, and 6 years old) and lives in Virginia Beach. She is currently out of the workforce due to the child care crisis in her community. There are not many jobs in her area that would pay enough to cover the cost of child care. She also says it is difficult to find child care that is close to home, doesn’t have long waitlists, and is affordable. "Now that COVID relief funds for child care have expired, I worry the problem will get even worse. I want to be able to work to support my family and send my children someplace where they will learn and grow." Money is super tight without her income, and WIC is a big help. “I am just really thankful for the cheese sticks and all the milk we go through with three boys. The healthy food and fresh produce is great.” But she's terrified about what will happen if she Congress doesn't fully fund WIC. "We have already felt the impact of WIC’s funding crisis. For example, WIC helped me access quality nutrition to support my first two pregnancies. But with my eight month old, I wasn’t able to access WIC’s pregnancy benefits because of the long wait times for appointments, as the program struggles to keep up with all the families needing support."

Child Care + Paid Leave + PUMP + PWFA
Before becoming a mom, Blanca worked at a law firm for 8 years in North Carolina. She was shocked to learn they didn’t provide maternity leave. When she had her first child about three years ago, she was given eight weeks of unpaid leave and had to pay the $553/month premium for health insurance during that time. She also had large medical bills from the birth that her health insurance didn’t cover. She couldn’t find child care for less than $295 per week. The firm let her extend her unpaid leave by two extra weeks, which she needed because of the struggle to find child care. She breastfed her baby at home but her daughter wouldn’t eat at child care. She was made to feel guilty for pumping at work – even though she was working as she pumped – and for taking time off to seek care for medical complications from the birth. She left the law firm in 10/2020. She is thrilled that the PUMP Act and PWFA will protect new parents from the challenges she faced, and she hopes lawmakers will make paid leave and affordable child care a priority.
Child Care + Paid Leave + CTC 
Mary and her husband are both educators in Rio Rancho, New Mexico. Her husband is a public school teacher, as was Mary for many years. She is now an instructional coach. They have a three-year-old. When they became parents, they struggled without paid leave and had to return to work, remotely, the day after Mary gave birth. They also have struggled immensely to find affordable child care amidst ever-rising costs. They couldn't find care they could afford in their area, so they drive an hour round trip in the morning and an hour round trip in the afternoon to a state-subsidized program -- "and that's if you really build your schedule around it so you're completely avoiding traffic." They pay $35/day for that program, which puts strain on their family budget. 
Child Care + PUMP + CTC
Julie is an educator with a five-year-old son in Michigan. When he was born, her school claimed to be supportive of breastfeeding, but in practice she did not have the accommodations necessary to successfully pump at work. "I ended up pumping for two weeks then had to stop because I didn't have protected, private time." Since becoming parents, she and her husband have struggled immensely with the high cost of child care and health care. The Child Tax Credit expansion was a game-changer. They used it for essentials and enrichment, and to cope with a tuition increase at their son's child care center. When it expired, they struggled again. They had to switch centers during the pandemic due to staffing shortages and their child care costs just kept rising.

Child Care + Paid Leave + PWFA + WIC 
Breanna is mom to teenagers and a one-year-old in Wheeling, WV. Before her most recent pregnancy, she was a manager at a pizza chain restaurant. She battled a host of health problems during her pregnancy and upper management was not accommodating at all. She especially struggled without flexibility for doctor's appointments. About six months in, she was forced to quit her job because she had a health emergency and they did not allow her time off to go to the hospital. Then, she could not look for a new job because she cannot find or afford child care for her baby. She recently took a job working night shifts since she still does not have child care during the day.  Since losing her job, her family has been in a financial crisis. WIC and SNAP have been essential. 

Child Care + Abortion Care 
Sarah is mom to two kids, ages 4 and 2, in Denver, CO. The cost of child care has been “completely overwhelming” for her family. “​​My husband and I both have stable employment and decently paying jobs, but we’ve been draining our savings to try to keep our kids in child care. Our monthly child care payment is double our mortgage payment.” It wasn’t sustainable, so recently, she was forced to make a drastic change: “I left a job I’d been at for 12 years to try to do consulting. That way I can work 3/days a week and we can cut child care down to 3/days a week. We’re still draining our savings to pay for part-time care, just at a slower rate. It’s infuriating.” 

Sarah also has a powerful abortion care story: During her first pregnancy, she lost her amniotic fluid at 18 weeks. Had she continued the pregnancy, her daughter would have been born with undeveloped lungs and would suffocate, then die. The pregnancy also threatened Sarah's life and her ability to have other children. She and her husband made the heartbreaking decision to end the pregnancy. "The one thing I feel lucky about is that I live in Colorado where abortion is legal. I know women who have had to travel across the country for abortion care. I was able to access care a few blocks from my house, and we were treated so compassionately. Everyone deserves that.” 

Child Care (provider) + WIC 
Sasheena is a single mom with a one-year-old daughter in Sanford, Florida. She works part-time at a child care program, and her income is not enough to cover many of her basic expenses. She is currently living with her mother and her four brothers. She says WIC is a "godsend" and helps her buy groceries."If WIC were to go away, I’d be devastated emotionally, I’d be stressed mentally, and I would probably be sick physically. What I want to see Congress do is take this seriously, because it matters. It helps, it provides, it keeps people alive.”

Paid Leave + HCBS 
Carrie is a pediatric behavioral therapist and mom to a toddler in the Baltimore area. Her husband’s mother passed away due to cancer in 2021, and neither she nor her husband had paid leave to care for her. She passed away under the care of 24/7 hospice nurses. “As her precious life ticked away the medical costs continued to grow with very little help from insurance or the government, adding stress to her already difficult circumstances. The last thing that she should have had to worry about during her last few months of life was how much medical debt she would leave her children, all of whom work hard but struggle financially.” 

Paid Leave 
Tracy is speech language pathologist and a mom of six in Wheeling, WV. One of her children has special needs and complex challenges, and she provides caregiving for other family members as well, including an elderly and homebound grandparent. Tracy used to work a full-time job but was forced to leave several years ago because she did not have paid leave. She now holds a contracting position without benefits. That gives her more flexibility, but any time she needs to step away to meet her son's medical needs (hospitalizations, surgeries etc.) she loses her income entirely until she returns. She’s grateful they can still mostly cover the basics with her husband's income but losing her paycheck puts major strain on her family's budget and adds another layer of stress.

Paid Leave + HCBS (provider)
Darsheen is a home health aide and single mom in Washington state. In 2019, just before Washington state’s paid leave program started, she had a devastating house fire and suffered severe burns. At the time, her youngest was 10. But her part-time job was her only source of income, and she didn’t have access to any paid leave. She took about two weeks of unpaid leave and then went back to work. "There were no ifs, ands or buts about it." It would have been impossible, financially, to take any more unpaid leave.  "I was worried about my car bill, my daughter needing new clothing, basic necessities, everything. Physically and emotionally it was very hard to go back so soon after my injuries. I do home care type of work, and I had to come home and attend to my home as well. It was very strenuous. I needed a lot of breaks. I was very jittery, and I had no time to heal.”

Paid Leave + WIC 
Leah lives in Cuba, MO. She had her first child in May 2023. Due to a medical emergency she had to be induced at 34 weeks and her daughter was in the NICU for 1.5 -2 months. During this time, her family struggled immensely without paid leave. Leah worked at a hospital at the time and only had one week of paid leave. Then she had to take 11 weeks of unpaid FMLA. That put her family in crisis – relatives had to step in to help with groceries and utilities. Her husband didn’t have any paid leave at all. He took a week of PTO and then had to go back to work. Every day when he got off work he drove 1.5 hours to the hospital to see them. Leah is now back at work, in a new job at a vet’s office. Still, money is tight and WIC essential for her family. WIC covered her daughter’s specialty formula that cost $40-50 a can. “It saved us, tremendously. WIC helps us keep my daughter’s belly full and keeps her healthy.” 

Paid Leave + Maternal Health/Justice
Danielle is a mom of three in New York City. She has chronic medical conditions, and she has struggled throughout her career in early learning without the paid leave she needs to manage them. She has been forced to create lesson plans from her hospital bed in the past. When she gave birth in 2021, late in her pregnancy, she struggled with swelling in her hands and feet. She voiced her concerns to her doctors but they were dismissed. But then, at 38 weeks, she had to be induced because of a sudden onset of preeclampsia. After a dangerous and complicated delivery, she was released from the hospital despite abnormally high blood pressure. 10 days postpartum, she was re-hospitalized with sepsis.  Due to COVID-19 restrictions, she ended up in the emergency room alone, without her loved ones able to advocate for her and ensure she was getting good care. She says the experience was nothing less than traumatic – “I could have died, and it felt like no one cared.”

Breanne lives in Marian, North Carolina. She has a toddler. When she was pregnant, she had been working for a small nonprofit, running multiple programs for children, for nearly eight years. She loved her work and had never received any sort of corrective action. "I tried to be extremely communicative with my supervisors while pregnant. I knew that with reasonable accommodations, I could continue to succeed in my role. But, suddenly, every little thing became a fight." She especially struggled with rest and pregnancy-related fatigue. "There was a point at about the same time every day when I needed a quick break to lie down in my office and recharge. I would always notify my supervisor when it got to that point. It didn’t interfere with my work." But it became a big problem. She felt put under a microscope, and when she was five months pregnant, she was fired without a concrete reason. "I had to apply for WIC and every type of support I could. I finally got Medicaid after a month of being uninsured."

Jessica is a single mom with twin boys who are 12. Both have special needs. She lives in Indian Trail, NC. Her sons need a lot of professional support, and she is eligible for the NC Innovations waiver, which provides home- and community-based health services to people with disabilities through Medicaid. “But for years now, we’ve been stuck on the waitlist for those services, along with more than 16,000 other families. There’s a huge shortage of direct support professionals, because the pay is so low. Those who are doing this work are overburdened. It’s next to impossible to get an appointment.” Right now, the only services she can access are applied behavioral analysis and some very limited respite services. “But it’s not consistent. My sons will go to ABA therapy one week, and then there will be a three-month wait for another session. My sons have autism – they thrive on routine. Without that consistency, they regress and struggle. And because we don’t have the waiver yet, they go without speech therapy and other essential supports entirely.” Jessica struggles to make ends meet on SSI and part-time work. SNAP and the Child Tax Credit are essential for her family.

Brittany has three children in Jacksonville, FL. Her oldest is 8 years old and has complex medical needs. She has spastic cerebral palsy, uses a wheelchair, and has a knot in her vocal chord, among other challenges. Home care nurses help care for her during weekdays and at night, and a nurse rides the school bus with her. But Brittany’s family has been stuck on the waitlist for a Medicaid waiver since she was 3 years old. In the meantime, they pay premiums for two insurance policies to cover her care. That puts significant strain on her family’s budget and makes it harder to afford food and her mortgage. 

Maternal Health/Justice
Thais is a mom of three, ages 6, 3 and 1, in New York City. Thais has been personally impacted by our country’s maternal health crisis. She has had preeclampsia and other complications but struggled to get adequate care and felt her concerns were not taken seriously. When she had her youngest last year, she was ‘terrified’ to give birth and took out a second life insurance policy because she was worried she would not survive. She had to be hospitalized with preeclampsia for three days. Thankfully, today she and her baby are healthy but she wants Congress to pass the Momnibus Act to protect women’s health. 

Sandra lives in Spokane, WA. She cares for her ten-year-old grandson, whom she adopted. She is retired from Costco and they live off SSI and a small pension, so money is tight. But typically, she doesn’t qualify for the CTC or EITC because she isn’t working. When the CTC was temporarily expanded in 2021, it had a huge impact for her family and enabled her to pay for expenses like a Cub Scout uniform and shoes for school. 

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