Following 2021’s productive legislative session and the convening of Gov. Kim Reynolds’ Child Care Taskforce, advocates like me were optimistic we could find a solution to Iowa’s worsening child care crisis during this year’s legislative session.
Unfortunately, Iowa’s policymakers have proposed solutions that are detrimental to children’s well-being: (1) allowing 16- and 17-year-olds to care for school-aged children, unsupervised, in child care facilities, and (2) increasing child-to-staff radios, allowing one child care worker for every seven children under 2 years old and one child care worker for every 10 children under 3 years old.
Despite a strong base of grassroots advocates tirelessly speaking out against these proposals, these measures are still being considered by the Legislature.
A solution to Iowa’s child care crisis cannot come at the cost of our children’s well-being. In fact, these so-called “solutions” would create more problems. Child safety and the quality of early education and care, to name just a few. While 16- and 17-year-olds should have opportunities to one day become child care professionals, they don’t yet have the necessary expertise or qualifications to provide unsupervised care for our children during their most critical years of growth and development. Why would we cut corners when it comes to our children — Iowa’s future?
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Dawn Oliver Wiand, the president and CEO of the Iowa Women’s Foundation, asked an equally important question. “A recent poll conducted by Selzer & Co. found that regardless of political party nearly two in three Iowans oppose allowing 16-year-olds to work unsupervised in child care facilities. If almost two-thirds of Iowans oppose this solution and it impacts child care safety and quality WHY are we still considering it a solution?”
A Save the Children Action Network advocate, Danille Anaya, is an in-home child care provider who said she is shocked by this proposal. She said: “As a child care provider myself, there’s no way I could provide adequate supervision to 10 3-year-olds or seven 2-year-olds. I have tasks throughout the day — helping with the bathroom, hand-washing, changing diapers, cooking and cleaning — that can’t wait until the kids are sleeping.” And, Danille is a professional child care provider, with eight years of experience.
Another advocate, Anissa Deay, the director of Primrose School of Urbandale, wondered whether 16- or 17-year-olds would even want to take on such a high-pressure, low-paying job at such an age. “I think we’re fooling ourselves to think 16-year-olds will work for less pay than what Starbucks and Hy-Vee will pay them.”
It’s abundantly clear these proposals aren’t viable solutions. We must prioritize the Governor’s Child Care Task Force recommendations that center on improving quality in order to meet the needs of Iowa’s children, families and workforce.
Join me in urging lawmakers to urgently reconsider bills that undermine child care quality, safety and affordability. Our future depends on it.
E.J. Wallace is the Iowa state manager for Save the Children Action Network.