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“I thought the 21st century would be better than this”

In our fourth installment of Beyond the Brink: The Impact of California’s Broken Child Care System, we hear from family child care provider Librado Torres of Los Angeles. Librado is one of many child care providers who keep California’s children learning, often time coming at her own expense. Read more below:

My children learn their ABCs, colors and numbers. I create lesson plans and make assessments for each child so that I can measure their growth. One recently skipped kindergarten and went straight into first grade because he knew all the basics.

Every single child in my care gets personal attention to make sure each one has a chance to persevere. I wear several hats as a child care provider. I’m the chef, environmental service worker, counselor, nurse and teacher. I should get five salaries for all the hats I wear, not poverty wages, that don’t even amount to the state minimum wage.

I never eat out so I can buy new books for the kids. I spend hours every month trying to figure out how to afford to pay an assistant, maintain a nice child care environment and still have money left over for safe cleaning supplies. When a good workshop comes along to help expand my knowledge to better serve my kids, I often can’t afford it. And I have no retirement plan because all my income goes straight to pay the water and electricity bills, internet and rent.

My parents struggle financially as much as I do. They are garment workers, fast food workers, cleaners, food packagers—all minimum wage jobs. Nearly their whole paycheck goes to cover their child care costs. I know one young single mom who was on a waiting list for affordable child care for years. What are her options?

We live in the 21st century and instead of getting better, it seems like things are getting worse. I worry most about retirement. I don’t want to work until I die. Even if I could save a tiny bit each month, it would never be enough. I previously worked at a family owned restaurant so I had some money put into a retirement plan. I recently learned that even with that careful savings, combined with what I’ve paid into Social Security, will only bring me $465 a month. That’s not even enough for rent at today’s prices, let alone what they’ll be then. I feel like the work we do in this profession is priceless. I’ve dedicated my life to kids and families—but at the expense of my own family and future.

I want to be part of the efforts to bring California’s child care system into the 21st Century. That’s why I’m telling Sacramento to give me a strong voice in my industry.

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