My Congressional Testimony: How Childcare Costs Impact Us
Thank you for the chance to speak here today.
My name is Danielle Henry. I’m a MomsRising volunteer, a mother of two, a wife, and a former full-time employee. I’m here to discuss the fiscal impact of childcare costs on my family and my community.
I want to start by saying that I mostly loved my job, and when I didn’t love my job I loved working. My husband and I overcame a lot of obstacles to become parents and we were delighted when our boys were born. We expected that we would live much like the generation before us, with two full-time workers and downtime focused on family.
What we got instead was escalating fees and intermittent reliability: surprise childcare closures, staph infections and breastmilk snafus. Our free time was increasingly focused on scheduling around school and childcare closures, and fighting about who would miss important meetings. We also went through money at an alarming rate until my paycheck’s primary function was paying for childcare.
The final year of this madness I had a kid in school in DC, one in childcare in Maryland (where the fees nearly matched my mortgage), and two broke, exhausted parents who worked in the city center. After one particularly exhausted series of missed commitments and childcare scrambles, I calculated exactly how much we were spending for childcare and aftercare. I then looked at the amount of money I was personally contributing to our family coffers. After childcare it was $800. Most of my salary going into childcare didn’t seem worth crying in the shower every morning and feeling I’d never be able to succeed as either a mother or an employee.
I started surveying other parents, limiting myself to those with two or more children who lived far away from extended family support. I talked to dozens of people, and every couple had a spouse who dropped out of the workforce or shifted to part-time work after the 2nd child. Regardless of age, race, income, educational level or geography: Something about having two children makes full-time employment unsustainable. I found this disheartening, but it made my decision clear: I needed to quit my job. My family would be better off financially if I worked part-time and took my youngest out of childcare.
When I gave notice, one of the childcare instructors told me that her wages were being garnished because she was behind in childcare payments to the childcare facility. We both felt trapped and neither of us had a good idea on what we could do to fix it.
The system isn’t working for anyone - parents or providers.
Direct investments in childcare are no different from any other workforce investments. Employment and parenthood should not be at loggerheads but unless we invest in comprehensive solutions to repair the situation, working parents will continue to struggle. Ensuring access to quality, affordable childcare is the cornerstone of any solution. I hope you will support a meaningful solution. Thank you.