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“Without my home, how can I provide care?”

In our fifth installment of Beyond the Brink: The Impact of California’s Broken Child Care System, we hear from family child care provider Catalina Romero. Read more below:

I’ve cared for my community’s children for 18 years. I help raise children with good values and a good educational foundation all while enabling their parents to go to work I’m very proud of what I do. I know I’m making a difference.

While parents are “bringing home the bacon” working at beauty salons, providing in-home elder care and packaging products in factories, I give their children love and attention. Parents often pick their kids up at 8 p.m. Once they get home, they have time to bathe them, give them a little dinner and put them to bed. There’s no time for stories or help with homework. That’s why what happens during the day at my home is so important. I give children the educational foundation that helps them succeed.

Sometimes I feel like I have nowhere to turn. At one point someone suggested I go on welfare.. I didn’t want to. But I was reminded that I couldn’t afford to be ashamed. I went to welfare, and had a terrible experience because the staff had a hard time believing that a small business owner like myself needed welfare. I later returned with my recent tax returns to show my need and sure enough, I qualified for food stamps.. It’s sad and not an uncommon situation for many providers. Here we are administering a state program that is intended to help families move off of public aid and this very program forces us into it.

Our broken child care system impacts more than just providers. Even with access to affordable care, parents can’t afford their co-pays. Providers like me often look the other way and care for their children anyway. What do I do? Kick the kids out and then the parents can’t go to work? We are all worried about our rent, car and food. How can I ever get financially stable enough to make sure I can continue to provide care for families?

I’m waiting for California to realize that our children are the future and their parents— today’s workforce—must have support, including me.

We can’t wait forever.

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