Childcare is one of the most important issues facing parents today. I know the struggles to find affordable, quality childcare firsthand. I am the mother of two beautiful children, Asyiah, age 6, and Tasir, age 5. My children are amazing, and, just like any other parent, I want to be able to give them the best opportunities in life. I know that for them to succeed, education is key. I have worked hard and tried my best to give them their best chance of success. Despite my efforts, the sheer cost of care for my son—care that would prepare him for school—has become unaffordable.
Until recently, my son attended a childcare program that he and I loved. He was given instruction and pushed to learn more. He attended the same program his sister did and has been there since shortly after birth. Being at the same center gave my son a sense of stability and security that allowed him to excel. I am a proud mother and I love to talk about how smart my kids are. I believe that is partly a result of the quality of the care and instruction they have received starting at an early age.
Unfortunately, due to financial reasons, Tasir had to leave his childcare center at the end of the fall. I lost my job and had to rely on cash assistance to make ends meet but I lost my subsidy that helped to pay for childcare. It broke my heart to have to move my son from the care he loved and relied on simply because I could not afford it. Losing my job and then my subsidy not only cost me but it has cost my son.
I have seen the benefits of high quality childcare in the education of my daughter. Asyiah is a smart girl. She wants to learn and do well at school. I believe this is a result of the instruction and stable care she received in the first years of life. She has a strong foundation to build upon.
Since losing our childcare subsidy, my son, Tasir, has had nowhere to go. For four months I have been piecing together care with a network of relatives and neighbors while I looked for work. I know I am lucky to have people to care for my son – otherwise I have no idea how I would be able to find work again. The loss of the childcare subsidy is not only a snowball effect from a lost job, but it is also an obstacle to getting any other job. Without care for my son how am I able to find a new job? It is a vicious cycle that too many families are stuck in.
While I am grateful that Tasir is safe and fed with my relatives and friends, this is not the stable care he was accustomed to and he’s not learning anything. At his old childcare center, Tasir engaged with children his age and learned new things each day. Now I am just focused on making sure he is safe. I want him to excel but right now our situation is not giving him any tools to help him prepare for school next year. My son cannot redo these last few months. They will always be a time of lost potential.
I know the importance of early education. I did not benefit from such programs and I do not want my kids to ever fall behind, or feel left behind. No child should miss the opportunity to learn because his or her parents lack the money to afford it. My daughter or son could be a doctor, lawyer, or even the next president of the United States, but without education, without a strong foundation, I fear they will not get there. That my struggles could impact my children’s future keeps me up at night.
Today, I am happy to say that I have a new job. Ironically I am now working at a childcare center. With my new job I am hopeful that I will be able to get my subsidy back and be able to afford care for my son. But there is no guarantee that I can get my son back in the same program, meaning this disruption in his life might be permanent.
No child should be prevented from reaching his or her potential because the caregiver lacks the funding. I hope that by sharing my story, I can show the need for high-quality, affordable childcare for all families. Asyiah, Tasir and all children deserve the opportunity to reach their potential.
Tangela Fedrick is a member of Witnesses to Hunger, a groundbreaking project featuring the voices and photography of parents and caregivers who have experienced hunger and poverty firsthand. Tangela is a mother of two, and currently works at a childcare facility in Philadelphia.
Photo provided by author