I was fortunate to find my way to youth development work.
As a college student, I was an intern at a local preserve where I led groups of all ages. The director saw something in me and referred me to a local summer camp where I discovered my talent and passion for this work. In pursuit of that passion, I applied and was honored to be accepted as an Americorps Tutor in an expanded learning program. Within the first three weeks of my term, I lost my vehicle in an accident.
To fulfill my service to the program I rode my bike 22 miles round trip multiple days weekly no matter the weather. I doubled down because I fell in love with the work and felt what I gave was important to the students I served. But truthfully I got so much more than I gave.
In 2016, my wife and I had our daughter. It wasn’t until then that I truly understood how important out-of-school time is for parents of all ages. When it was time for my wife to return to work we had not been accepted in any of our preferred child care options and we’re still number 75 on the list of our first choice. Thankfully, we did find placement in a quality program. However, we have to commute 30 miles round trip to get our daughter there. Access is not the only challenging issue. The cost of care for our daughter is equal to our housing cost. Two weeks ago we welcomed a new son into the family. We are fortunate to have a happy, healthy baby.
And we are well aware that soon we will be paying well above the cost of our housing for child care. We’re doubling down because it is literally priceless to know that your child is loved and positively engaged when they are not with you.
My case is not at all unique. In fact, I’m one of the lucky ones. The lack of access and the high cost of child care impact millions of families, especially low-income and single parent families. A recent report from the Economic Policy Institute found that infant care was on average higher than college tuition in California, while preschool programs for non-infants were comparable to the costs of college. According to the Afterschool Alliance America After 3 PM report, 2.4 million children in California would be in a quality out-of-school time program if one were available. These numbers illustrate the overwhelming unmet need for programs. Fortunately, child care spending has increased in the recent years at the California state and the federal levels. These changes are welcome, but will not come close to meeting the need. Additionally, despite years of advocacy and strong legislative support, California’s Governor Jerry Brown opposed a critical funding increase for our state-funded after-school programs, severely limiting their ability to operate a high-quality program.
Despite some good news on the policy front, families will continue to face dire issues around access, cost, and quality of child care and expanded learning opportunities. It’s time to double down on our efforts to inform legislators that our programs must be a funding priority.
I had a great perspective on how important youth development programs are from working in programs, but being a parent has given me a whole new appreciation for how critical your work is. From the bottom of my heart I want to tell you what you should be hearing from your school partners, your communities, and the highest-level leaders of our country, THANK YOU! Unfortunately, you are not hearing a sincere thank you from our Nation’s highest-level leaders. I have been saddened by rhetoric at the federal level undermining the value of after-school programs and arguing that they should be completely eliminated. I have been terrified and angered by family separations due to our federal government’s immigration policies. The fear, anxiety, and terror that separated children and parents are experiencing is beyond anything I can imagine. No human should ever be victimized in such a way as a matter of policy. It’s time to start doubling down on the right national priorities. Priorities that value children, youth, and families.
Thank you for all you do! I invite you to stay informed and get involved:
- Join the California AfterSchool Network Newsletter
- Join the Save Afterschool Newsletter
- Join the Afterschool Alliance Newsletter
For breakfast this morning I enjoyed some sous vide egg white bites at Starbucks just before visiting my daughter’s new classroom, and I can’t wait for her to experience the high-quality learning environment she is about to enter.