Preparation: Making Sense of Child Care Advocacy as an Accountant
As I began to educate myself on what I had signed up for as a Parent Advocate, I soon realized the connections to the local community. I learned that Child Care Aware® of America is the national organization that supports each state's local Child Care Resource and Referral in addition to other programs. Quickly, I began to make connections between legislation and policies at the national level and the tremendous impact they have on families through the following areas: 1) Tax Credit Legislation, 2) Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG), 3) Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and 4) Early Head Start а Child Care Partnerships. Being a CPA, I was drawn to gaining a better understanding of proposed tax credits in addition to the budget and appropriation process. As both a parent and a CPA, I was officially intrigued.
The days leading up to our trip we continued to receive information, including my Family's story that would be shared with Arizona Senators and House Representatives. This would be just one document of many in a portfolio given to representatives illuminating the current state of child care in Arizona. Our agenda included scheduled meetings with Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake and District 1 (our home district) Representative Tom O'Halleran. This was the point where I started to get a little nervous. I had never advocated on a national level or spoken with elected officials before. How would I make sure that our representatives understood the struggle countless Arizonans face when finding high quality and affordable child care? How would I help make the connection between affordable, high-quality care and economic gains?
The Summit: Opening Evening
During the Summit, I received a lot of information about the history of child care in the United States and the legislative policies that have been enacted over time to support the need for child care. The opening plenary session included speaker Paul Schmitz, who explored various aspects of leadership and the potential influence leadership has on a community. Looking back it is clear that this session was selected to inspire the participants to realize the potential each of us has to participate in our government. I left the session both invigorated and empowered that involvement in my community matters and has the prospect to affect real change for not only my community at home but also my state.
After the plenary session, we were treated to a bus tour of Washington D.C. At one of the stops, we had the opportunity to disembark the bus and take in some of the monuments. We choose to walk through the Franklin Delano Roosevelt monument, who happens to be one of my favorite Presidents. One of the quotes that resonated with me as we walked through was the quote,
"No country, however, rich, can afford the waste of its human resources. Demoralization caused by vast unemployment is our greatest extravagance, morally, it is the greatest menace to our social order."
Franklin Delano Roosevelt
As I would later realize, this quote aligned perfectly with the message I wanted to deliver to my state representatives.
The Summit: Day Two
I embraced day two of the Summit knowing that I would be advocating for accessibility to high-quality care that was affordable and promoting legislation that supports paid family leave. Personally, I feel very fortunate that my young children have been enrolled in high-quality programs that I know play a significant role in supporting their development, which will no doubt influence their future success in school. However, I also know that high-quality care is not accessible to everyone due to geographic barriers, the capacity of schools, or frankly the skyrocketing cost of care. As an example, part time care for my two children accounts for approximately 20% of my take home pay! As a person with two baccalaureate degrees, a Master's Degree, two professional certifications, and over 10 years of experience in the business world, this is a significant amount of money that goes towards care. My family has made significant adjustments in order to afford part-time care.
Given this sticker shock, families across Arizona (and I'm sure the country as a whole) are faced with tough decisions when it comes to early care and education for their children. Does one parent drop out of the labor force, thus reducing the amount of taxes being generated in the community? Do parents seek out unregulated care that is more affordable through a family, friend, or neighbor? Or do parents consider piecing together care from a variety of people/settings and work opposite schedules from their spouse? Reflecting on FDR's statement, how does losing valuable members of our workforce affect social order? Could there be parents across our country that stay at home with their children that wish they could have found a way to continue working in some capacity while also raising their children? Obviously, my mind was going a mile a minute.
Day two consisted of stories from other advocates, both heart-wrenching and inspiring. People with real life stories bravely sharing how low-quality care resulted in the death of their children and how they have used their tragedy to demand action and awareness of this crisis. We received information related to the benefits of high-quality care, insight into the federal budgetary process and how public policies are considered by our elected officials. We continued the afternoon by practicing sharing our stories with others, including how our personal stories aligned with public policies that were currently being considered in the federal budget. Then it was time to rest up for our big day on the Hill!
The Summit: Day Three "The Day on the Hill"
The next morning we joined other Family Advocates and Child Care Aware® of America Public Policy Advocates to begin our march through the streets of D.C. to the U.S. Capitol. Despite clouds and drizzle, energy levels were high as we were all fired up and prepared to make our voice heard! We rallied out front of the U.S. Capitol chatting and cheering together before heading inside the walls of the Capitol to meet with our elected representatives. My wife and I met with our Senators' and House representative's policy staff, due to our representatives being "in session" during our scheduled times with them. During our conversations with both Republicans and Democrats, one thing became apparent - child care is a bi-partisan issue. Each office official we spoke with realized the importance of the issue and after some intentional questioning on our part, were able to make personal connections to how child care policy could affect someone they knew in their personal life.
Reflecting on the last year, I have seen discussions around politics raise to a level that I have never witnessed in my 34 years of life. Friends, family, colleagues and even strangers have been more freely expressing concerns and beliefs at a rate that I can hardly keep up with. And while I continue to have reservations about some policy decisions happening at a federal level, I feel my experience as a Parent Advocate has given me a deeper understanding of the process elected officials go through when making policy decisions and I have a renewed appreciation for the policies being weighed and difficult conversations around policy that are happening. One of the legislative aides, after hearing our story, advised that policy changes are a slow process at the federal level and not to forget about similar policies back home.
Join me for Part III of my journey as I reflect on where I see my personal advocacy journey going as a both a Parent and a Business professional in my local community and across Arizona.
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 coming soon...