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Michigan Mom Shares Stresses of Child Care Affordability

Hannah Gilliam is featured in a Michigan League for Public Policy video about the importance of access to affordable child care. (MLPP)
Hannah Gilliam is featured in a Michigan League for Public Policy video about the importance of access to affordable child care. (MLPP)
April 25, 2019

LANSING, Mich. – Affordable, quality child care helps parents stay in the workforce and earn money to provide for their families.

But for some Michigan families, it's a difficult balance to achieve.

When Hannah Gilliam of Grand Rapids had her first child at a young age, she says she couldn't afford the higher standard of child care she wanted.

Now, she’s a mother of five, and says her family makes sacrifices to ensure that her three youngest are getting quality care.

"Even with achieving higher education, and even with finding stable employment where they pay you a living wage, I'm still struggling with the same issues that I did as an 18-year-old mom, which is affordability," Gilliam states.

State lawmakers are considering proposals in the budget that could help more families afford child care, including increasing the state's very low eligibility threshold for child care assistance.

Such an investment could help an estimated 2,000 families.

Another proposal would increase payments for child care providers to help hire and retain qualified staff and ensure facilities meet health and safety requirements.

The average cost for infant care in Michigan is $10,000 a year. However, minimum-wage workers earn just $19,000 a year.

Gilliam says the financial stress of paying for quality care can prevent her from being the parent she wants to be.

"We literally suffer sometimes to just meet our basic needs, making sure that there's enough food in the house for our family, making sure that our transportation is up to par,” she relates. “It's a struggle to make sure that we can make that payment for our three youngest children to be in care."

Gilliam notes she's seen differences in economic and educational opportunities for families and children of color.

"We're the only African-American family to be in the day care that we chose for years, years – and so there was a lack of diversity,” she says. “Those barriers affect some cultures and races more than others."

Gilliam and another West Michigan mom share their stories in videos released by the Michigan League for Public Policy, focused on the importance of state efforts to improve access to child care and affordability.

Mary Schuermann Kuhlman, Public News Service - MI