Friday, May 13, 2016

In Her Own Words: A Letter from Hillary Clinton on Raising Strong Families

One of the barriers that Hillary Clinton wants to break down is that represented by the challenge of finding and funding child care.
Letter sent on May 13

We need to do more to help working parents raise strong families.

On Sunday, a lot of moms woke up to breakfast in bed, presentations of homemade cards and macaroni picture frames. As someone who received quite a few Mother’s Day gifts like these when my daughter was little, I can attest that they’ll be treasured forever.
But it’s not just families who should celebrate moms. Our country should, too — not just with nice words, but with real action that can really help parents do the vital and often difficult work of raising strong families.

I’ve heard from so many families out there who are struggling to keep the lights on, pay the rent, and be there for their children while doing what it takes to succeed at work. Many are trying to do it in neighborhoods where it’s not always safe to play outside. Some are raising kids with special needs or chronic illnesses, who they love with every fiber of their being but who require a lot of help and patience every day.

On Monday, I sat down with some moms and dads in a coffee shop in Virginia to talk about the roadblocks they face trying to balance work and family. These parents are running into the middle-class squeeze that so many families face: Their relative incomes are the same or lower than their parents’ were, but the cost of everything is higher. One mom said that she’s paying $16,000 a year for child care, which means there’s nothing left to put aside for college or retirement.

The parents I met over the past few days — and those I’ve met across the country over the past year — come from different backgrounds, earn different incomes, and have different beliefs. But the core challenge they’re facing is the same: They desperately want to give their kids a good life. And that gap between what they can do and what their children need tears them up.

Too many workplaces and government policies still operate under the rules of an era that no longer exists, and that means parents — and especially women — are expected to do it all: raise the kids, look after the home, be there for a spouse, and earn a living. Many are helping to care for aging parents, too.

We can’t keep going on like this. That’s what this election is about — a chance to do better by American families. And there are a few things we can do as a country that would make a real difference.

Let’s create a national system of paid family leave. Too many new moms have to go back to work just days after their babies are born, or they’re scraping together vacation days, sick days, unpaid leave, short-term disability, and anything they can to get more time with their babies. And too many dads and parents of adopted children don’t get any parental leave at all.

We should expand home-visiting programs nationwide. In some states, nurses and social workers come right to a family’s home to answer questions about nursing and sleep training, screen for health and developmental benchmarks, and emphasize how important it is to talk and read to babies from the earliest days of their lives. Every family deserves that support, no matter where they live.
We also have to do more to raise incomes. We can start by raising the minimum wage, which would give millions of American families a much-needed boost. And let’s finally guarantee equal pay for women so that their families aren’t shortchanged.

Let’s encourage more employers to embrace family-friendly policies. Sophisticated new scheduling software helps employers squeeze every last bit of productivity out of their workforce. But they’re also throwing workers’ lives into chaos. Too many workers find out what shift they’re working at the last minute, meaning they’re constantly scrambling to line up child care. That instability is exactly what kids don’t need.

That brings me to one of the most important things we could do for families: putting quality child care within every family’s reach. Right now, in many states, child care is more expensive than college tuition, putting families in an impossible position. And of course, for single-parent families, it’s even harder.

Enough is enough. It’s time we invest as a nation in making quality child care affordable for all working families. Let’s make it so no family has to spend more than 10 percent of their income on child care.

We also need to give child care workers a raise. Many can’t afford to give their own kids the care they give other people’s kids every day, and low wages lead to high turnover. As president, I’ll support states and cities that take steps to increase pay for child care providers and early educators while making child care more affordable for families.

And let’s do more to help students who are also parents. That means getting more child care centers on college campuses and easing the financial burdens on student parents, so they don’t give up on school because they can’t afford it. Back in Arkansas, I helped start a scholarship for single parents, and it made a real difference for a lot of hard-working students. We should do something similar nationwide.

Supporting women and families has been the work of my life — ever since I took my first job out of law school representing the interests of children. So this is personal to me. I’ve always believed that it takes a village to raise a child. We all have a responsibility to support each other and create the best possible environment for kids to grow up in, where moms and dads can succeed at work and at home.

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