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The Human Right to Childcare

February 23, 2022

Childcare, one of the most important elements of our society, is inaccessible for many and unguaranteed for all. In the U.S., childcare is not viewed as a vital public service and has been relegated to private industry, which has not devoted to it the resources it desperately needs. Jabari Brisport puts it plainly: “The entire childcare industry is hanging on by a thread.” It has been for a long time.

Childcare is extremely costly, and while there are subsidies to some parents who can’t otherwise afford childcare, but those subsidies aren’t as expansive or generous as they need to be. Take the example of Westchester, New York, where a family of four where two parents each work full-time for minimum wage will not qualify for subsidies, and center-based care will cost 55.4 percent of their income.

Many families are left out, unable to qualify for a subsidy yet also unable to pay childcare costs that might amount to over half of their monthly income. Meanwhile, despite the high cost of childcare, those who provide these services—predominantly Black women and women of color—are “so under-compensated that the majority live in poverty.” The terrible irony of child care workers being unable to afford care for their own children renders in stark relief the injustice of our system.

The COVID-19 pandemic has intensified the childcare crisis. With more childcare centers going out of business—not to mention the unthinkable financial strife and personal traumas that so many families are experiencing—the crisis is “more urgent than ever.” Brisport states that, in the New York City area, one provider had 142 applications for just five open slots and another had 250 applications for twenty-seven slots. Parents might drive an hour to access a childcare provider, and waiting lists can be years long.

The sexual freedom movement advocates for all to have support when creating and sustaining families. Universal childcare is a nonnegotiable part of the better future we’re building toward. It’s a fundamental human right. We at the Woodhull Freedom Foundation firmly believe that no one should worry about whether they can secure childcare. We believe that all parents and caregivers deserve to have accessible, guaranteed services to, in Brisport’s words, “educate, keep safe, and nurture our most vulnerable population.

Photo of a person holding a baby.

Photo of a person sitting on a couch holding a baby. The person is looking at the baby. The adult wears a black top and blue jeans. (Getty Images)

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