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I wish that I had known then what I know now.

The following story was inspired by the testimony Family Child Care Provider Anna Rodriguez from Watsonville, CA. Anna gave testimony at the July 12h California Senate Labor Committee in Sacramento in support of AB676.

I love the work that I do as a child care provider. For the past 21 years, I have loved seeing the children in my care grow from baby talk to learning to say their ABC’s. I love seeing their eyes light up when they learn to read a new word or remember the words to a new children’s song. I love my daily talks with their parents as I share with them how their child learned that day. And I take great pride in knowing that my work makes it possible for mothers and fathers to do theirs.

In addition to running my child care for the past 21 years, last year I was trained by my union and experts in the field to become a peer trainer for the purposes of providing Occupational Health and Safety Training to my fellow child care workers.

The work we do is incredibly valuable. And yet we continue to suffer from low wages and a lack of access to workers’ compensation benefits, as well as lacking the basic training to keep ourselves safe and on the job. I know my fellow child care provider Tonia McMillian already shared these stats, but I think they are worth repeating:

  • Back injuries are by far the most common for us, occurring at nearly double the rate of the general working population.
  • We come into contact with hazardous chemicals and infectious diseases at a higher rate than the general public.
  • In an early study, 95% of child care providers reported job-related stress. Prolonged stress plays a role in other physical and mental health complications for us.

These may just seem like facts and figures, but for child care providers these numbers are all too real. Several years ago I seriously injured myself after falling backwards over a small child. I fell on my back while clutching a 7 month old baby in my arms. My only thought as I fell to the ground was to do whatever I could to protect the baby in my arms and the small children running at my feet.

In that moment, I knew how to protect the children in my care, but I did not know how to protect myself. Which support shoes have the best grip, how to lessen the impact a fall and tips on how to adjust my work load while healing from an injury. I had cuts and scrapes on my elbows and hurt my back badly. Despite my injuries, I had to work through the pain for weeks.

I wish that I had known then what I know now.

I could not close my child care for even a day to recover. My family was counting on my income and the parents I serve were counting on my care. To add insult to injury, I had no health care. My only two options were to pay out of pocket or suck it up. I did not have the money to see a doctor, so I sucked it up. I have health insurance now thanks the Affordable Care Act, but like millions throughout this country, I’m living in fear that our health care will be taken away from us by our nation’s leaders.

What will I do now if I am injured on the job and have no healthcare? Thousands of providers are asking themselves the very same question. Our workforce has benefited greatly from the Affordable Care Act, and now that it is under attack, preventative trainings like this are key, especially for a vulnerable workforce like mine.

That is why AB676 is so important to me and the profession I love. 2 hours of training will lead to years of stability for thousands of child care workers and parents alike. 

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