THE BAY’S BLACK AND BROWN FAMILIES ARE DEALING WITH A SERIOUS CHILD-CARE DILEMMA DURING PANDEMIC AND CALIFORNIA FIRE SEASON

By JR Valrey 

Childcare is one of the least talked about, paramount issues that Black parents are facing, during 2020’s COVID pandemic year, and throughout California’s ever intensifying fire season, which has had over 2.5 million acres throughout the state go up in flames within the last month. With distance learning being mandated at schools across the nation until further notice, and the plentiful California sun being blocked out for weeks because of the smoke from the still burning, enormous California, Oregon, and Washington fires, there’s no telling when life may get back to a normalcy, where children could congregate to learn, socialize, and go to school instead of being cooped up in the house so that their young lungs can be as  protected as possible from smoke inhalation, while they hide from the historic pandemic.

Nelsey Batista is a Latina, electoral political organizer in the Bay Area, who constantly advocates for the rights of children and parents of Black and Brown families in Oakland, and throughout the state of California. She weighed in on this very timely discussion about the ever-growing need for childcare, while most Black and Brown families are staggering to get a financial foothold in a society that looks completely unfamiliar and different than it did 6 months ago.

JR Valrey: How has COVID and distance learning affected working parents’ need for childcare? 

Nelsey Batista: Every parent needs access to quality childcare in order to work. Without childcare you cannot have a functioning, working economy. Since the quarantine period of Covid-19 started, childcare facilities were forced to shut their doors. Unfortunately a lot of childcare facilities that did not have access to the first stimulus package benefits for small businesses, were forced to permanently close their doors. For parents who relied on a single child care provider, meaning an individual who is taking care of their children instead of a child care facility, the social distancing rules made it difficult for parents to depend on anyone for child care. Many parents had to decrease their work hours, and in more serious cases, many parents lost their jobs simply by not having access to quality child care.

JR Valrey: How is childcare being dealt with during the 2020 election? And what are they saying? 

Nelsy Batista: We currently do not have a California State proposition in the 2020 general elections for child care; however, in the 2020 primary elections, Alameda County passed Measure C, which is the countywide universal child care initiative that will begin during the next budget cycle. Measure C was a huge victory for Alameda County, but the State of California still has a long way to go in providing universal child care statewide. There is a federal Child Care is Essential Act that recently passed in the Congress, but is still in the US Senate waiting to be passed, which will hopefully provide universal child care to the entire nation.

“Poverty and homelessness are one of the top reasons for recidivism in education; meaning, a child living in poverty, or a homeless child, is more likely to be absent from school. Child care is essential. It is the foundation of all intersectional issues.”

JR Valrey: Who is for and against the propositions? 

Nelsy Batista: Historically, those that support child care initiatives including those in support of the recent Alameda County Measure C initiative, have been families, unions within AFL-CIO, that include unions like SEIU that have a child care provider union, and California’s child care advocacy groups like Parent Voices, Child Care Law Center, 4C’s, California Child Care Resource & Referral Network, and so on.

Those who have not been in support of child care propositions have historically been those that do not support progressive taxes for early education during each election cycle. The only opposition has been within the private sector that contain large corporations that do not want to pay additional taxes, or any taxes for child care and public education. These groups encourage voters to not support new taxes, but to keep the current taxation for child care and education intact. Child care needs its own initiatives on a statewide and federal level, similar to Schools and Communities First that is going to tax larger businesses and commercial corporations that currently do not pay the same amount in taxes that most of the general population, middle class and poor Americans have been paying for a long time. These initiatives also seek to tax the larger businesses and commercial corporations who have never paid taxes at all.

“If this could happen to a single parent with a Master’s Degree, imagine the parents who do not have a college degree. What could that mean in the short-term and long-term for housing and job insecurity? Child care is the foundation of the entire working economy.”

JR Valrey: What is truly at stake economically if nothing is done to aid working people with the enormous cost of childcare?

Nelsy Batista: Child care is an inter-sectional issue that crosses all issues such as housing, labor, education, and early education. Without quality child care, families cannot go to work. Without a job, you cannot pay rent. If you don’t pay rent, you risk losing your housing. Poverty and homelessness are one of the top reasons for recidivism in education; meaning, a child living in poverty, or a homeless child, is more likely to be absent from school. Child care is essential. It is the foundation of all inter-sectional issues.

JR Valrey: As a working single mom, what has your experience been like with trying to get childcare, so you can work to feed your child? 

Nelsy Batista: Upon becoming a single mother, I immediately lost my housing. Employment was my only way back into stable housing. However, once I became employed, I lost my job because of a lack of quality child care that would allow me to leave my child at a child care facility early enough to take the train to work and make it to the office on time, every day. This put me back into unstable housing until I was granted a child care voucher from the child care referral agencies with the help of Parent Voices that gave me the opportunity to access child care, while I found another job. I was finally able to get stable housing with the help of child care advocates and a stable job that allowed me to take my child to work with me, until she entered the K-12 public school system. The scariest part of all of this, is that I am a single mother with a Master’s Degree in America. We are never told that higher education does not guarantee housing and job security to parents, especially single parents, who have no means to be able to pay back their student loans. I never imagined that generational poverty would or could include parents with a higher degree. If this could happen to a single parent with a Master’s Degree, imagine the parents who do not have a college degree. What could that mean in the short-term and long-term for housing and job insecurity? Child care is the foundation of the entire working economy.

JR Valrey: Where can people get more information? 

Nelsy Batista: Child care advocacy groups such as Parent Voices, the California Child Care Resource & Referral Network, and the Child Care Law Center are excellent resources for child care services and for parents to know their rights and what you could do to access quality child care to provide a safety net for your family and thrive.

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