Will Child Care Survive Budget Crunch?

by Lisa Garcia-Gray on April 20, 2004

Over 200 folks rally in support of San Francisco’s Children youth and Families

“I’m afraid your only option is to go back on welfare if you want to get child care subsidies” As I heard my advocates’ voice on the telephone illustrating the impossible position of working poor parents like me, I clenched my teeth in pain.

No, she was right, there really was nothing else I could do, and yet, right now, I couldn’t even do that cause on paper I made too much money receiving a meager stipend for the parttime care of a disabled parent. So for now no child care, no work and ongoing poverty were my reality.

” There are no sacred cows – this is a difficult year, what with state and federal budget cuts” Gavin Newsom called out to my question of what the future of poor families in San Francisco would look like over the din of over 200 youth and families gathered at City Hall Plaza on April 15th for a rally to save San Francisco’s children from the deep cuts proposed by both state and local budgets. The rally was called by Coleman Advocates and proceeded open door sessions with all of the San Francisco Supervisors and testimony in front of the Budget committee.

“This is a very difficult budget year in San Francisco, what with the cuts from Sacramento, we are hoping that even if we have to make cuts this year to children’s services, it will get better after this year” Newsom spoke into my microphone with a fixed politician’s gaze and then turned away, never to look back at me again. My son, hanging on to my shoulder, and I folded back into the bulbous crowd, Newsom’s security guard whisked me away as I tried to get more clarification to his last statement.

I have to admit as a formerly homeless resident of San Francisco, I have trouble believing anything Newsom says, much-less any promises by him to “do the right thing” but as very low-income single parent, I am, along with all the other advocates and families hoping that he in fact , does the right thing. In this budget year that would mean staving off the following proposed cuts; increased co-payments for health care, reduction in school based services, the loss of respite care for disabled children, and of course in my opinion one of the worst cuts of all; drastic reduction in the meager child care subsidies that exist now.

The City’s licensed child care system provides care for more than 20,000 children in low and moderate income families every day. Schwarzeneggers proposed cuts include rate reductions for child care providers caring for low-income children, reduced access for working families, higher fees and co-payments for low-income parents and elimination of subsidies for 11 and 12 year olds. In the end what this all means is it will be even more difficult for poor parents like myself to get up and out of poverty, but what it really means is more poor parents resorting to underground economies just to stay alive and leaving their children in cars and houses alone and/ or in other unsafe situations if they want to work at all.

The Child Care Planning & Advisory Council (CPAC) in partnership with the Department of Human Services conducted a detailed analysis of child care budgetary proposals and created specific recommendations which included the establishment of a child care reserve fund – this is would be very critical in light of the other cuts to the current TANF program. This is one of the things we are asking Newsom to establish.

There were many other speakers at the rally,both children and adults, from Tom Ammiano, voted Supervisor of the year for Kids, to the great Jeff Adachi, our Public Defender, but I think Supervisor Sophie Maxwell’s statement best summed up the day for me, “We need to support our families cause without our children, what kind of a city would San Francisco be?”

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