UT child-care providers, families demand investment in care for kids
Monday, October 9, 2023
On Wednesday, child care providers and families will gather at the Utah State Capitol to participate in a stroller rally to advocate for critical investment in the child care system.
Federal funds intended to keep child care services afloat during the pandemic as part of the 2021 American Rescue Plan expired last month. Estimates from The Century Foundation suggest more than more than 35,000 Utah children will lose access to child care, and nearly 670 child care programs will be forced to close their doors in the state as a result.
Brigette Weier, organizer for the group Care For Kids, said Utah was a child care desert before the COVID-19 pandemic, and added it still is, which is why she argued things need to change.
"Ultimately we need to have a shift in the priorities of our zero to five," Weier contended. "A shift in some of that funding in how we think about life span and knowing that when we invest in zero to five we are saving money further down the road."
Weier pointed out for every dollar invested in early child care, it saves society an estimated $9 down the road. The share of working mothers with young children is at historic levels, according to The Hamilton Project. But experts like Weier worry the loss of child care options will pull people, especially women, out of the workforce and "push them into poverty."
Weier added early child care, inside or outside the home, is often not valued as it should be.
Weier wants to see the state's early child care system be funded similarly to the K-12 system. Utah is one of 33 states where infant care is more expensive than college. She noted not only can families not afford it, but providers cannot afford to stay.
Her group has found the hourly wage for early child care providers in Utah is nearly $13 an hour, which translates to just under $27,000 a year.
"We're going to encourage folks to go to committee meetings with crying babies and with toddlers that are sipping on juice boxes and playing," Weier emphasized. "Because we want our policymakers, our legislative staff to see that kids are part of their constituency. They are Utahns."
Weier added those attending Wednesday's rally come from all over the state. She highlighted the current state of affairs relating to early child care presents real challenges to those in rural communities, as they already have a lack of options. She encouraged Utahns to get engaged and contact their legislators using their template found online.
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