Mothers who had previously relied on government-sponsored childcare are increasingly finding themselves without the aid they thought would be there to support them.
Take for example 30-year old Clarissa Doutherd of Oakland, California. Doutherd expected to be promoted from a bookkeeping assistant working part time to a full-time staff accountant. With California cutting off a $1,000 monthly stipend for child care, Doutherd was then forced to quit her full-time job just to be eligible for child care – even though she was this close to becoming completely self-sufficient.
Now the cost of childcare per year varies wildly depending on where you live. For example, the cost of full-time care for a child in Mississippi is just about $3,900 a year. And for that same full-time care for a child in Massachusetts, the price balloons to $12,200 a year.1
Looking at these figures, it is easy to see the fact that given other living expenses, paying for child care would be almost unaffordable for low-income families.
The problem is that state cuts and budget hawks have made it significantly harder for families to gain access to affordable childcare while working at the same time. Some parents in precarious career positions, like Doutherd, find themselves at a crossroads: continue working and neglect their child or take care of their child but give up their career in return.
This is a decision that is not easy to make, especially so for single mothers where balancing work and childcare is more like a juggling act. Without affordable child care, maintaining a job can be difficult, if not impossible.
Childcare assistance is an essential partner to food, shelter and employment assistance. Taking it off the equation means that moms have to stay at home and watch over their children instead of making enough money to make all ends meet; thus nullifying any opportunity for them to improve their lots in life.
“We struggle financially because I’m not able to work full-time yet,” Doutherd says; echoing the sentiments of hundreds of thousands of parents who can’t improve their lots in life because of the need to take care of their children.
Editor’s Note: Doutherd’s story appeared May 16, 2012, on MSNBC, with the headline: Child care cost hikes derailing women’s careers.