Child Care and the Collapse of the Safety Net

New York City The severity of the Great Recession is finally stripping away the pretense that there was anything like real welfare reform in recent years as opposed to sufficient tinkering with an expanding job market that allowed many to go to work with the thin threads of support offered by the state. Hopefully this will not be the final statement of the case, but so far it’s looking increasingly like way to much of this promise of citizen wealth was simply statistics masking for the lack of substance or sustainability.

The current wholesale collapse of funding in many states, despite the stimulus boost, for child care support is a dramatic example putting a headstone on a deadly problem that has existed for years. The unwillingness to create an entitlement that would benefit all lower income families that were looking for work or holding on, has now created a situation with imperiled state finances that is collapsing the entire program in state after state. Shockingly in the California fiscal crisis the Governator is now proposing to shut it all down and leave 1 million children without child care.

Even before this, according to the Times, “In 2000, only one in seven children whose families met federal eligibility requirements received aid, according to an analysis by the Center for Law and Social Policy, which advocates for expanded programs. In 2003, the Bush administration found that in the smaller group of children eligible under more restrictive state criteria, only 30 percent received subsidized care.”

Once again we have a huge eligible participation gap that is now being exacerbated by waiting lists and slammed doors.

Despite the tendency to blame the victims, the one thing that the fake reform and the earlier economic expansion may have proven is that folks really want to work if they have the support to do so, the training to succeed, and jobs are available. Unless all three of the legs of that stool are in place, it all falls down, and it will take a lot to rebuild, including the political courage to embrace the social welfare structure needed to create sustainable families with citizen wealth.

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