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The Child Care Law Center Is Reimagining the Future of Child Care in California

The Child Care Law Center is reimagining the child care industry so that it benefits the providers and the parents. (Photo by Brooke Lark.)

Child Care Law Center
 is educating, advocating, and litigating to make child care a civil right. They are dismantling systemic injustices that are embedded in the child care system—one regulation, sub-regulatory guidance, contract, law, unwritten policy and practice at a time. On the one hand, they are championing child care workers, 95 percent of whom are women. On the other, they are advocating for low-income working women, who need subsidized child care to participate in the workforce.

“Women should be able to support their families with peace of mind, knowing their children are well-cared for. And while moms are working, child care providers are helping their children to grow and learn. They deserve to be well-paid and valued. We want quality jobs in both directions,” said Kim Kruckel, executive director of Child Care Law Center.

The pandemic showed us that child care workers are essential to our society and economy, yet this profession continues to be undervalued and underpaid, the result of policies rooted in racism and discrimination.

“For too long, policy makers have demeaned child care by allowing racist policies to exist. The child care system is based on exploiting Black, Brown and immigrant women. And until we recognize that, until we acknowledge that we used to enslave people to care of children for free, until we make a purposeful, intentional decision to reverse it and make reparations, we're not going to see good pay for childcare providers,” said Kruckel.

The child care industry is a low-wage industry and its workers, mainly women of color, are earning poverty wages and have little opportunity for upward mobility. One in four childcare providers in California lives in poverty. In 2018, half of all child care providers qualified for government aid, unable to make ends meet without social safety net programs like CalFresh and the federal Earned Income Tax Credit.

The Child Care Law Center is working to win respect, dignity, living wages and workplace protections for these essential workers. Their strategies are many—including legal and legislative advocacy, legal services, community education and narrative change. But their vision is simple:

“Childcare providers are treated as the professionals they are. They have a decent income. They have a retirement that they can rely on. They have paid sick days and health insurance. Childcare homes and centers are nestled all throughout our communities. No zoning barriers, no expensive permits. They are welcomed by their neighbors, and their landlords don't discriminate against them.”

Kim Kruckel, CCLC
We want quality jobs in both directions. Mothers should be able to support their families with peace of mind. And child care providers deserve to be well-paid and valued.

Kim Kruckel, Child Care Law Center

A recent example of CCLC's advocacy work is their Keeping Kids Close to Home Act. This is a bill that they co-sponsored and that went into effect in January 2020. It provided important housing protections for family child care providers.

"Before this bill, if you ran a child care in your home, your landlord could harass you and tell you, 'No, you can't run this here.' Or try to charge you higher fees, or a higher security deposit. This act made it so that landlords, HOAs, and neighbors can no longer harass child care workers and prevent them from running their business and caring for their kids. And it had a huge impact for family child care providers,” said Kruckel.

In addition to supporting child care providers, this act is also supporting working parents who need affordable, accessible and quality child care in their communities. We saw what happened during the pandemic when the child care sector collapsed. Working mothers left the labor force in unprecedented numbers, setting gender equity back a generation. Or they reduced their work hours in order to assume caretaking responsibilities, which undermined their wages, their long-term economic outcomes, and the economic recovery.

“During the pandemic, we saw that a lot of child care providers were closing, which made working difficult for parents. So it’s instrumental to keep them housed and to keep their businesses running. That way, they’re financially supporting their own families and giving care to kids in the community.”

Keeping Kids Close to Home Act (SB 234, Skinner) protects child care providers in all residential properties in California.

Today, child care is considered personal responsibility, but the Child Care Legal Center believes that it should be a public good, like our libraries, roads, and parks. Every working parent needs child care, especially working women.

Today, child care is considered personal responsibility, but CCLC believes that it should be a public good, like our libraries, roads, and parks. Every working parent needs child care, especially working women. Without it, work is impossible, especially for women and in particular low-income women who are working low-wage jobs. That’s why one of CCLC's priorities is ensuring that low-income working women have access to child care subsidies. Right now, the subsidized child care system is burdensome, complicated and penalizes low-income women the moment they start earning more, pushing them back into poverty.

This year, CCLC co-sponsored a bill, Affordable Child Care Family Fees Act (AB 92, Gómez Reyes), to remove exorbitant child care fees from low-income women who cannot afford them, but desperately need child care to continue their education and build careers. Unfortunately, the bill was not signed into law. CCLC was, however, able to advocate for a one-year waver of the fees. The waiver will end in June 2023. 

The bottom line is that child care is the one institution that has the power to encourage and maintain women’s participation in the workforce and support gender equity in employment, wages, upward mobility and economic security. We are grateful to CCLC, the only legal center in the country focused on child care, for championing child care providers and women who need child care to work.

In this clip, Executive Director Kim Kruckel explains what equity in child care means to the Child Care Law Center.

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