The Childcare Situation is Dire. Let’s Talk About It.
Schools are closed, camps are canceled, and many daycares are closed as well. Working parents are expected to continue to work full-time and also become care-givers for their children.
Even though our society does not recognize care-giving as valid work that deserves fair pay, providing care is indeed work. People whose “Plan A” care situation has been canceled now find themselves working an extra job- caring for children.
In Mississippi there are no state-wide closures of childcare centers. This stance by the state government means that either:
- parents must evaluate the risk and make the decision themselves whether to send children to their childcare facility if it is open or continue to pay to hold their child’s unused spot,
- find alternative childcare either in a center that is open or find alternative care such as babysitting, a nanny, or family/friends who might be able to offer some care, or
- work without any extra childcare, splitting childcare responsibilities with a spouse or partner as a best-case scenario.
Therefore, money and family/social networks are the only things keeping some of us going. Those of us without such resources are suffering disproportionately. The children themselves are suffering from this uncertain childcare situation and are missing friends, important lessons, and even meals.
Sister Song reminds us that Reproductive Justice means the human right to “…parent the children we have in safe and sustainable communities.”
Our current childcare crisis in Mississippi is neither safe nor sustainable. Parents and families are not okay. The children are not okay.
Yet here we are in Mississippi, facing a long, hot summer without adequate ways to care for and rear our children.
In Your Own Words
Why do you support reproductive dignity?
Reproductive dignity is the right to fully experience and live in my body without oppression and state terror visited upon it. Reproductive dignity is also a meaning making tool of joy, and embraces that every life deserves to be lived as they wish, regardless of the good, bad, or random luck to be born in a specific time or place or body.
—Alexandra Melnick, English teacher at Leland High School in the Mississippi Delta and 2019 Leaders of Moral Courage Fellow
Calling Out the Weak Solutions We Have Been Given
Rev. Carol Burnett, our Faith in Women Board President and director of the Mississippi Low-Income Child Care Initiative, recently wrote an opinion piece calling out the failures of Mississippi’s response to the crisis in terms of childcare.
Carol’s perspective on the crisis:
- Existing centers are in danger of closing.
- Instead of funding new emergency “pop-up” childcare centers as the state of Mississippi has done since the beginning of the pandemic, what about shoring up existing centers with emergency placements and emergency dollars?
- Our existing childcare centers might not be there later when we need them.
Faith in Women commends you, Carol, for speaking out on behalf of the vulnerable members of our community.
After our May newsletter went out, Anna Wolfe of Mississippi Today wrote about this very topic of childcare and also spoke with Carol. Read her article here.
Childcare in Mississippi is a Long-Standing and Ongoing Issue.
Even before COVID-19 and the statewide shutdown, Mississippi had a shortage of child care providers for young children. In 2018 there were only enough spots in licensed centers for 23 percent of our state’s infants and toddlers.
Clearly this aspect of the childcare situation in our state does not pass the “safe and sustainable” test set forth by Sister Song and the values of reproductive justice and dignity. Mississippi simply continues to fail our children.
Universal (public) pre-K is one way to support children in our state. Mississippi First is working toward that goal. Executive Director Rachel Canter wrote an Op-Ed last month about the Coronavirus pandemic showing the need to continue to push in this direction.
An Upside to the Crisis?
You may not be looking for an upside to this crisis, but Monisha Bajaj makes some great points on Blavity.com. Check out her opinion piece For Parents Of Color, Schooling At Home Can Be An Act Of Resistance, which offers a positive perspective on the childcare crisis that has come during the COVID-19 pandemic.
I love that Bajaj looks for the new, just, free ways of being in the midst of suffering. Do you have a story or experience in that vein? If so and you feel like sharing, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to hear some life and joy in the midst of chaos!
I hope that we at Faith in Women can encourage YOU in the ways you are envisioning and even embodying the future in this time of great upheaval.
Wherever you are and whatever your life circumstances right now, may you be rooted and grounded in love.
The Reverend Anna Fleming-Jones
Program Coordinator for Faith in Women
@annaflemingjones on IG
email@example.com email me!