Building Better for Black Families: A Panel with Black Women Leaders Advocating for Affordable, Accessible, High-Quality Child Care
In communities across New York, families continue to endure the challenges of accessing and affording early child care and education options. For families living in the Bronx, N.Y., the challenges are even more dire. In February, Low Income Investment Fund (LIIF) and Goldman Sachs’ One Million Black Women initiative partnered to host the “Building Better for Black Families” event in the Bronx, highlighting how racial inequities have impacted Black women providers and families in the early care and education (ECE) sector.
The event provided an opportunity to elevate the voices and perspectives of Black women leaders and families seeking to address the ongoing child care crisis and the needed policy solutions to increase the supply of quality facilities.
For centuries, the early child care and education sector has been composed of women and women of color who earn near-poverty wages, largely impacting Black women providers. Now, with the lack of federal funding sources for child care facilities, and without dedicated public subsidy to take on costly and onerous real estate projects, many of these small-business owners have put off necessary repairs and expansion projects to cover operating costs. These obstacles impact the access that families have to quality and affordable child care. The child care crisis in New York — and across the country — has created a barrier for families and providers in the ECE sector to ensure all children have equitable opportunities from birth through early childhood.
During the event, local leaders such as Michelle Paige, Ed.D., newly appointed executive director of New York Mayor’s Office for Child Care and Early Childhood Education, heard from a powerhouse panel comprising: Vanessa Gibson, Bronx Borough President; Shanita Bowen, ECE on the Move; Jasmin Corniel, founding director of Little Scholars Early Development Center; and Mansie Meikle, home health aide, student and parent on their perspectives and solutions to support the sector:
“Women are not paid what we are owed,” explained Bronx Borough President Vanessa L. Gibson. “The child care centers we are seeing are run by women, which means they employ women of color, and they serve children of color. I am very adamant about this work [child care]. For us in the Bronx, this is a necessity, not an amenity. [We must understand that] child care is part of the basic fundamentals of economic development, jobs, stable housing and quality food.”
“We need to stabilize the workforce by paying providers what it truly costs to offer child care,” echoed Shanita Bowen. “We can come up with all types of initiatives, but until we are paying providers a livable wage, disparities will continue to exist in the ECE sector. We need agencies to come together to ensure that providers are thriving, and happily moving and accepting children into their facilities.”
“Regardless of administration or a parent’s income, child care should be a right for every family,” said Jasmin Corniel. “Now, for a parent to cover the cost of child care, they get a voucher but as soon as they start making money, they lose their eligibility for it. Every parent wants a good education for their child, so many make the tough decision to stay home to keep their voucher and send their children to day care rather than being able to have upward mobility, start a career or go to school.”
“Child care providers need resources to fund these programs,” explained Mansie Meikle. “In the dynamics of everything going up and money not coming in, it is hard for providers to provide the best care for our children. The goal is for children to get the best care outside of what they receive [from their parents]. If providers are not being provided with the resources that they need, it is difficult for them to be the best versions of themselves to provide for children.”
LIIF’s $20 million partnership with Goldman Sachs’ One Million Black Women initiative, The Brighter Futures Fund, is helping to address these issues by creating and preserving child care facilities co-located with affordable housing and other community resources. “The Brighter Futures Fund is a manifestation of both of our organizations’ deep commitment to addressing the persistent racial inequities plaguing our society,” said LIIF’s President Kimberly Latimer-Nelligan.
Asahi Pompey, Global Head of Corporate Engagement at Goldman Sachs said, “Too many children still do not have access to high-quality early care. Too many parents cannot afford the care. Too many providers are making near-poverty wages. In response to these challenges, the Brighter Futures Fund is a meaningful investment that will drive greater accessibility and quality of child care centers across the country.”
Co-locating child care with affordable housing supports low-income families by improving their access to two vital sources of household stability and economic mobility. Coming out of the pandemic, LIIF has scaled our early education and child care work to focus on the climate emergency, understanding that Black and Latino children, families and neighborhoods tend to have the least access to high-quality ECE and are most likely to live in places susceptible to the ravages of extreme weather conditions exacerbated by climate change. LIIF is committed to creating opportunity, equity and well-being to address decades of historically excluded communities being able to access high-quality, affordable child care.
LIIF understands the importance of advocating for effective policy solutions that will improve and sustain the conditions of child care facilities, increase funding and provide support to Black women providers. Through the partnership with Goldman Sachs One Million Black Women, we will narrow opportunity gaps as we continue to utilize our resources to invest in centers that are owned by Black women or serve Black mothers and families.