Central Oregon’s working families and child care providers are asking Congressman Kurt Schrader — who may hope to be our representative in the newly redrawn 5th Congressional District — to listen and act for us in Washington. Now is the moment, Rep. Schrader.
As child care providers and working parents, we know well the pressures of raising children and seeking high-quality child care for them in their critical first five years of development and exploration. Only one in five children in our region has access to a place in an early learning classroom, and if they do, it can cost a family of four almost 20% of their income to pay for care. Layer this on top of rising housing costs and the result is a squeeze that is forcing Central Oregonians (mostly women) out of their jobs and pushing families out of our region. Without reliable, quality child care, workers can’t work, and the ripple effect is devastating. To be frank: we are stressed out, and so are our friends and neighbors.
But it’s not just about the economy. Research shows that most critical brain development happens in the years between birth and kindergarten. We know that infants and children who have access to nurturing, quality care at an early learning center are more likely to thrive in relationships, work and life.
Now, with the introduction of the Build Back Better Act in Washington, our representatives have the opportunity to prioritize the wellbeing of our children and families. The act would invest $400 billion in child care, effectively stabilizing our current centers and opening new ones in our region. The numbers are thrilling: in Oregon, more than 220,000 young children would receive care, and families earning less than $223,000 per year would pay no more than 7% of their income for that care. For providers and families alike, this is our dream. And now we have the opportunity to make it come true.
Here in Deschutes County, we are seeing an exciting shift in the way we approach the child care infrastructure gap. Our board of county commissioners recently voted to invest almost $7 million of American Rescue Plan Act funds in local child care efforts — including capital improvements, workforce training and development, and the development of new child care sites. This is thrilling, and we know it needs to be just the beginning.
ReVillage, our child care co-op, began when a few families got together to try and ease the pressure we feel in work and parenting. Now, we are honored to offer full-time certified care to families in our city and live our primary value: there’s no such thing as “other people’s” children.
Providers like us in Central Oregon are stepping into families’ lives at big, critical moments, like when infants are first born and parents are overwhelmed, or when families are seeking access to other supportive services like health care. But we are also accompanying families in the small moments: learning how to tie a shoe or ask for a turn with a toy; getting dirt under fingernails on the playground; exploring the world of colors and texture at an easel. The Build Back Better Act would offer providers the stability and investment we need to pay our teachers a thriving wage, offer quality learning materials and environments for our children, and keep our doors open as we weather the ups and downs of a pandemic economy. It would also offer needed support in opening new child care centers as we seek to address the “child care desert.”
Rep. Schrader: We are doing our part here in Central Oregon. Now we’re asking you to do yours in Washington. Please support the Build Back Better Act and invest in our families, our workers and our future.