Our Executive Director Emeritus’s Story
Making the Case for Investing in Child Care
Below is a transcript and visuals from a speech by our Executive Director Emeritus Sandee Blechman, which she presented at our 2017 Child Care Champions Luncheon. We hope you find it as inspiring as the 300+ attendees who joined us for this very special event.
I am Sandee Blechman, Children’s Council’s Executive Director.
35 years ago, I was a young mother looking for child care. I remember the tremendous anxiety I felt looking for someone I could entrust with my baby so I could go back to work. As it was, I was incredibly fortunate. Not only did my husband and I have the means to pay for care, we found a wonderful person.
Marta was the only child care person I ever needed. She helped raise my 3 children, now successful adults—and all Spanish-speakers, thanks to her. Her family—her children, grandchildren, and now great-grandchildren—became part of our extended family, adding so much to the fabric of our lives, and theirs.
I often credit Marta with allowing me to become the professional I am—giving me the peace of mind that allowed me to achieve professionally, contribute financially to my family (and hers), and contribute to my community. I want all families to have the same opportunities that my family had. All parents need reliable child care … so they can work and provide for their families. And all children need nurturing care that fosters their social and cognitive development and prepares them for school—and for life.
The sad reality, though, is that many families in San Francisco do not have these opportunities. Children’s Council is working at the individual and systems level to change that!
First, let me tell you how we help individuals.
If you have children, you know firsthand how daunting it is to find child care that meets your needs. You also know that child care is expensive—upwards of $20,000 per child per year. Each year, Children’s Council helps over 15,000 families connect to child care that meets their needs. We help families from across the economic spectrum to understand the types of child care available, how to assess for quality, and how to find care. Then, we help them identify providers that meet their criteria from our database of all 1,000 programs in San Francisco.
We provide additional support to lower-income families: We help them navigate the complexities of federal, state and local subsidies that help pay for care. And we connect them with other community services, like food and housing assistance. We are a critical part of the safety net—often the first door to services for young families in need. Our 110 talented, caring staff meet families where they are, delivering services in many languages to San Francisco’s diverse community. We also increase the availability of quality care by helping people start child care businesses and strengthen their skills as early educators.
Now … let’s talk about the systems change work we do. Let me share a few facts to illustrate the problem. In a high-cost city like San Francisco, it takes an income of $92,000 for a family with two young children to cover their basic needs, including child care.
The reality is that half—yes, half—of SF’s young children are in families living on less.
Despite these high costs, to be eligible for a child care subsidy, a family of three must earn less than $57,000. And, due to a shortage of subsidies for very young children, if the family has an infant or toddler, they are unlikely to get assistance at all if they earn more than $24,000. Right now, there are more than 2,500 eligible children on SF’s subsidy waiting list.
Depending on the child’s age, a family may wait for months—some, even years, to get help. So much critical brain development happens in the first few years of life. Children do not have years, or even months, to wait for high-quality, nurturing care. At the same time that families are struggling to make ends meet, so are the professionals that care for their children. Early educators with BAs make less than any other profession, with wages often far below self-sufficiency.
To address these systemic issues, Children’s Council is a vocal advocate with federal, state and local policymakers. Our job won’t be done until early care professionals can earn a decent income and all families have access to quality care for their children. The research is clear: Investing in child care and early education is a smart, two-generational strategy for alleviating poverty. And the investment pays back in spades.
When vulnerable children get quality early care, it lowers costs in years to come for special and remedial education, and long-term costs for welfare and criminal justice. This investment in children also generates immediate benefits, supporting a productive and stable workforce –for both the parents and the caregivers. If we want San Francisco to be a city where diverse families thrive and a city that maintains a middle class, we need more support for child care.
Now… I am a grandmother. Watching my daughters and sons-in-law juggling their child care needs and costs along with the other demands of their young professional lives. Like me, they are fortunate, with lots of support and the means to pay for care. I want all families to have access to quality care like my children and grandchildren have. We, at Children’s Council, hope you will join us and our many community partners in our efforts to make quality early care and education a reality for all families in our city. We hope “you” will become part of “us.”
We hope you will talk with your friends and colleagues about this important topic—raising the visibility of this issue within your companies and your communities. We also hope you will advocate with us at local, state and federal levels for increased funding. And, finally, we hope you will support us in the critical work of helping thousands of families each year to thrive.
You may also make a donation now; gifts of every size allow Children’s Council to significantly impact the lives of San Francisco families with young children.