Stories from Strapped: Child Care

This is part 5 in the Stories from Strapped series. Previous posts in the series are:

Chapter 5 in Strapped: Why America’s 20- and 30-Somethings Can’t Get Ahead by Tamara Draut is And Baby Makes Broke. Basically the author says the younger generation can’t get ahead because child care costs too much.

For a change, I’m going to keep my comments to the minimum this time. I will present the stories and give you a chance to chime in. The first story:

After Renee had her baby son Ben, she and her husband divorced. Her employer only gave her unpaid maternity leave. She got help from welfare, food stamps, and WIC. For one reason or another, the family child care providers Renee found didn’t work out as well as she liked. After a raise and a state budget cut, she lost some child care subsidy from the state. She’d like to put Ben in a formal child care center, but she can’t afford the price.

Next story:

Robin and Jack (from the last chapter) send their son David to a Montessori child care center which costs them $1,300 a month. The center has two teachers for every four children. Because there is high demand for good quality child care, they had to wait a long time before a slot opened up for their son.

Now we know why a couple making $160,000 a year live paycheck to paycheck when they have a $2,500/month mortgage payment. The third story:

Carolyn and Ryan, a teacher and a police officer, were happy with their child care provider until Carolyn got a new job at the opposite end of the town. They visited many child care centers but none met their requirements. When their older son reached three, they also had a hard time finding a good preschool they liked. They finally found one but it cost them total $1,280 a month for preschool for one son and toddler care for another. They had to cut back their retirement savings in order to afford it.

Ms. Draut recommends that the federal and state governments provide paid parental leave for 6 months and universal child care for age 0-5. That sounds good if nobody has to pay but everybody knows that’s not possible. So I have a question. If the younger generation as a whole will receive a net benefit of paid parental leave and age 0-5 child care, that only means the two older generations above them will have to pay because money doesn’t grow on trees. At the same time, the younger generation is paying Social Security and Medicare tax which goes to the older generations’ retirement and post-retirement health care. Shouldn’t we just cut the Social Security and Medicare tax rates and call it even?

Life would be a lot simpler if money were of no object. Then we would all be able to get what we want. What is the proper role of government, if we decide we are not going down the path of “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs”?

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  1. Ted Valentine says

    “Ms. Draut recommends that the federal and state governments provide paid parental leave for 6 months and universal child care for age 0-5.”

    GRRR. How about people raise their own kids? Why is it everyone else’s responsibility to pay for that? What ever happened to that antiquated practice called mothering? These people complaining about a lack of childcare are like the starving Hindu walking around with a cow attached to a rope. There is so much I could say about this topic but most of it is not kind, so I’ll leave it.

    tfb, the deeper you go into this book, the more clear it becomes that people just feel entitled. Do most people really feel and behave this way? I don’t know how you kept from throwing that book against the wall.

  2. Ernie says

    Surely one thing the government ought to do is invest in the education of its citizens. Or are you arguing that America’s well-educated workforce is not a major competitive advantage?

    To my mind, one component of education is childcare. Not just babysitting, but social development, rudimentary number sense, literacy, etc.

  3. Harry Sit says

    Ted – Actually I’d love to hear more what you have to say. I’m not throwing the book against the wall because it has become a popular train of thought that young generation today can’t get ahead. The book was written in 2005. So it was ahead of the curve. Others are jumping on the same bandwagon only now. I want to see if it’s truth or myth.

    Ernie – I’m not arguing for or against anything. I’m just asking. I didn’t have much formal early childhood education before I went to school. I think I turned out just fine.

  4. Ted Valentine says

    Here’s a radical solution for the childcare/social security problem. Give elderly a choice: They can retire at 62 and receive full benefits if they provide at least part time childcare for a working family. Don’t want to help care for the young? Then the full retirement age is pushed back to 70. I don’t have all the details, but it makes sense.

  5. Kathleen says

    So, you want to make people work all their lives to enjoy their last years with a new job – whether they like the field or not? radical is one thing but a solution, it’s not.

    I work in a field that determines eligibility for subsidized payments for child care. It’s a problem. The cost of child care is rising so fast that people who make minimum wage can’t even cover the cost of having their child in a safe environment while getting a head start on their education. Getting a head start on education is key to ensure their child doesn’t end up in a minimum wage job with one step away from public aid.

    While some argue that child care does improve social development, it is more important to have a child in a safe and nurturing environment. And then what about after school? By the time a child is school aged, the parent who needs help paying for child care increases their change of working two 40 hour week jobs to pay for school. (don’t start on public school cost. think about the cost of clothes and all the other school supplies needed). Having a stable, secure, and comfortable environment helps kids succeed. Having them hang out with buddies on the street does not help.

    Yes, life happens. The cost of mothering is high (don’t forget the fathering). I think you, Ted, are interpreting that people feel entitled. Entitlement comes to those who expect it and do nothing to prepare for it. Working families do not feel the emotion of entitlement.

  6. Grace says

    It used to be that when a woman has a baby, she would stay home to take care of the child. Sure, she may need to go to work to bring home a paycheck to make ends meet, but then she could rely on her parents or her husband’s parents to help take care of the kids. At least that was the case with my family. And that’s the problem…there is no sense of “family” or “community” in this day and age. People nowadays tend to want to be more independent and rely less on their support system, if there is still such a thing. It’s not about receiving benefits or tax breaks. What happened to love for one another? I think selfishness is the culprit here.

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