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Unless we pay attention to those of us providing the care as well as children and parents—we won’t move forward.

The following story was inspired by the testimony SEIU Local 99 member and Family Child Care Provider Deborah Dow gave at the state Assembly’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Early Childhood Education tour of Cerritos College’s Child Development Center.

My name is Deborah Dow and I have been a family child care provider in Compton for 10 years. I’m also a member of SEIU Local 99.

I’ve always just intuitively been good with kids. I worked in schools until my son was born with autism. I wanted to spend more time with him, so I opened up my own daycare. I think being home with him made all the difference. He is super-high-achieving and a lot of fun and just brings light to our lives. I’ve worked with other children with special needs and again I’ve intuitively known what to do.

I’ve noticed that child care has become a hot issue lately. Political candidates are talking about it more. I hear about it in the news. Everyone seems to be talking about how expensive child care is and how families can’t afford it. And I think more people are learning that providers are barely making it financially; that child care is under-resourced—and that unless we pay attention to those of us providing the care as well as children and parents—we won’t move forward.

The crisis isn’t new, but all this attention is. It makes me hopeful that we’re on the verge of a powerful moment here in California and nationally. I am here today to discuss what that path forward looks like and how child care workers can help lead us forward.

One solution is clear. Like I said, I’m intuitive about what kids need. I understand this industry. Providers like me need to have a seat at the table to improve California’s child care system. The state needs to make sure that family child care providers like me have the ability to collectively bargain with the state.

We need a voice to make improvements to the system—such as how to prevent so much turnover in this industry. Nearly one third of California providers shut their doors during the Great Recession. This makes our child care system so unstable. And we need input on the types of training and resources we need to give the kids in our care the best education possible. I could go on and on about how valuable our insight and our voice are as we look to the future; as we raise the future.

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