A picture of Representative Sheila Jackson Lee
Sheila J.
Democrat TX 18

About Rep. Sheila
  • Child Care

    by Representative Sheila Jackson Lee

    Posted on 2016-01-07

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    JACKSON LEE. Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the gentlewoman from New Jersey for her continued leadership as she brings those of us in the Congressional Progressive Caucus to the floor to speak on issues of concern for the American people.

    Let me also thank the gentlewoman from Oregon for her leadership. I am delighted to be an original cosponsor of her very important legislation that is championed by the Congressional Progressive Caucus that is really demanding and calling for high quality, guaranteed, affordable, and accessible child care for every American family and a strong childcare workforce that is paid a living wage, at least $15 an hour, and has a voice on their job.

    I have alongside of me just a picture of children that may be any child here in America, happy and smiling. Mr. Speaker, that is why we are standing on the floor of the House today, because as Americans and as Members of the United States Congress it is our responsibility to be able to provide for the happiness and smiling of our children.

    So I tell a story, as I begin my remarks, on the importance of this Special Order and the importance of child care. Just a few years ago in my area in Houston, parents got a call that no parent wants to receive. These were parents of little children, and they got a call to come rushing to their daycare center. They were rushing because their daycare center was on fire.

    The tragedy is a young woman who had this business, whose family gave her this business so that she could have something to do and an income, had stepped away and went to a store and left little children under the age of 5 alone by themselves while a boiling pot of some form of food was on the stove. What happened was obviously that the pot caught fire and babies lost their lives, babies who could not move or help each other. She came rushing back with great remorse and emotion, but those babies were gone.

    That is the story of child care, Mr. Speaker. It is so very important that every child has the potential for greatness, and that is why child care is so important. In today's economy, the need for child care is a reality for the vast majority of families, but most working parents can't afford it, even while childcare teachers are not even paid enough. Childcare teachers are struggling themselves and can't provide for their own children. Low wages and a lack of benefits lead in the high turnover.

    In the instance of childcare centers across America, many of them are unregulated. Additionally, parents are struggling. On average, center- based child care for two children can cost more than rent or mortgage in every State. No one who works hard should have the downside as they care for other's children to not be able to care for theirs.

    In 2011, 49 percent of children ages zero to 4 with employed mothers were primarily cared for by a relative, their father, grandparents, sibling, other relative, or mother, primarily because they could not afford other sources. Center-based care was 26 percent. Grandparents was 21 percent. Other relatives was 6 percent.

    Over 8 million children live in a single-parent household. Seventy- six percent of these single-parent households were employed. Sixty- seven percent of women in the workforce had a child under the age of 6. Thirty percent of women work at night and have a child under the age of 5. Twenty-nine percent of children in need of child care have multiple arrangements for child care that can include relatives or skilled childcare services. Sixteen percent of children in need of childcare services live in poverty.

    The high cost of child care, the cost of full-time infant care across the United States in 2012 ranged from $4,600 to $20,000. Mr. Speaker, that is more sometimes than a part-time worker makes or even a full- time worker makes. That is saying to the American people, to women, to fathers, and to grandparents that we do not care about your children. The cost of full-time care for a 4-year-old ranged from $3,900 to $15,000, and the cost of before- and afterschool programs ranged from $1,950 to $10,000.

    It is important, as we stand on the floor today, to make this statement: that guaranteed child care is really a necessity. It is a right. Why? Because I remember the Declaration of Independence, though not the Constitution, that talks about the pursuit of happiness. What more pursuit of happiness is there than to ensure that the children who are pictured here on this poster board have the right and opportunity to quality child care and for parents to not have that very devastating call, the call a parent who is doing everything they can to provide for the family to rush away from their job because their babies had died in a raging fire because an unregulated childcare provider left to go shopping while a food pot was burning on the stove? Recently, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services began [[Page H166]] a ``Don't Be in the Dark Campaign'' to educate the parents about the dangers of placing children in unregulated child care in Texas. The importance of regulated child care becomes unavoidably clear when one considers the fact that 13 children died in unregulated care. In 2006, 18 children died in unregulated care in the State of Texas.

    In order to stop deaths like this, we need universal care, we need quality care, we need teachers and workers who love what they are doing as they do, but are paid a livable wage, $15, so they too can provide for their families.

    Unfortunately, safe and affordable child care is not available as much as it should be in the State of Texas. Many working parents rely on State-subsidized care to meet their needs. In 2007, the Statewide waiting list for subsidized care was 17,000 in January, and it moved to 46,000 in October.

    So it is important to note, for example, in Austin, it costs about $43 a day to provide for full daycare for a toddler. However, the State will only pay a small amount.

    So this is a very important Special Order. It is to reinforce the fact that our obligation is to safely secure our children and to include our children in the constitutional rights, if you will, of providing for them the sense of a quality of life that is worthy of them as the future of our Nation.

    I join with my colleagues in speaking about and supporting this resolution, but I also join with them to support the full funding of Head Start. Many times we will see that those who were a part of Head Start, in fact, Head Start was very important to their growth and their progress.

    I also want to include these agencies in my community, AVANCE and Neighborhood Centers, and say that if we had the universal access to child care, many faith institutions and others could be part of regulated, certified, clean child care that could be made more reasonable for those working parents who work very odd hours and work into the night and early morning and need the kind of around-the-clock child care that is so necessary.

    So I want to thank Congresswoman Watson Coleman for her leadership, and I leave this podium again by saying every child in America is precious. Even as we hear those discussing issues of choice and issues that sometimes women have to make, we know that we love our children. Why don't we, as the children are here, as they are toddlers and infants and growing up, make sure that no child goes longing for love, for food, for resources, and no child goes longing for quality child care.

    Mrs. WATSON COLEMAN. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentlewoman from Texas for her leadership and her commitment to every child in this country.

    I yield to my colleague from Virginia (Mr. Scott), who is ever vigilant and diligent as it relates to preparing, educating, and ensuring our better generations to come.

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