Post-Roe landscape could further stress America’s crumbling child care system


Jackie Mader

The Hechinger Report

In 2008, researchers at the University of California, San Francisco launched a study to track the effects of refusing an abortion on women seeking to terminate their pregnancies. For five years they watched the socioeconomic and health outcomes
of approximately 1,000 women who attempted to obtain an abortion between 2008 and 2010; some had abortions, while others were turned away because their pregnancies barely exceeded a clinic’s gestational limit.

The results captured by the Turnaway study were clear. Women who gave birth after being denied an abortion experienced an increase in household poverty compared to those who had an abortion. They were more likely to run out of food and shelter, run into debt, stay in contact with an abusive partner, and end up raising children alone. Children’s well-being was also impacted: Babies born after a mother sought an abortion were more likely to live below the federal poverty line, and the mother’s existing children received lower scores on assessments. of child development.

Now, experts are looking to this research and similar studies to anticipate what awaits families in the wake of the Supreme Court’s June decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, reversing Roe v. Wade. While it’s impossible to predict the full impact this decision will have on families, if what women experience after Dobbs follows the findings of The Turnaway Study and similar results from other studiesexperts say more families will need social support at a time when those supports are already sorely lacking.

This could further burden the country’s crumbling and severely underfunded childcare system. Hope for help disappeared late last month when Congress cut billions of dollars in child care funding from a streamlined reconciliation program that replaces President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better plan. .

Early childhood advocates have called on lawmakers to restore child care funding to the proposal when the Senate debates the bill this weekendwarning that failure to add such funds could be devastating to the childcare industry and families.

Paying for childcare will be one of many challenges for families affected by the abortion ban, said Julie Kashen, senior researcher and director of women’s economic justice at the Century Foundation, a group of progressive thinking. “The results of the post-Roe decision are horrific,” Kashen said. “We have a completely inadequate safety net and completely inadequate public investment in the care economy, so if you start on this really shaky base… you’re just exacerbating the existing challenges,” she said.

While some studies have predicted a “Dramatic increase“In births due to abortion bans, researchers say the reality is more nuanced. Parents may not have more children than they wanted, but the children they do have will be born at a less opportune time. That means women “have children on a schedule they don’t dictate,” when they may not be ready, said Gretchen Sisson, sociologist and researcher at Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health, a program research at UC, San Francisco.

“When you talk about the burden of child care systems, social safety nets or support systems, [women are] having children when they are less financially stable. And we will see this kind of game play out over many years,” Sisson said. “This impact on the calendar makes people more dependent on public support and assistance. You will also have more children raised in families below the poverty line and vulnerable.

As things stand, the US child care system is unfortunately unprepared to accommodate more children who need public support to pay for their care. Only 11.6%
of eligible children received state child care subsidies to help pay for care in 2019, and even families who don’t need state subsidies are struggling to find child care, especially for infants and toddlers.

A 2020 report found that there were only enough licensed childcare slots to provide care for 23 percent of infants and toddlers. And that was before 16,000 child care programs nationwide
closed due to the pandemic, a 9% drop in approved suppliers. The cost of child care has also increased in recent years, on average by 41 percentan amount that could prove costly for many families, and particularly prohibitive for the lowest income brackets.

In May, the senses. Patty Murray and Tim Kaine, both Democrats, proposed a plans to increase federal funding
for childcare. When this plan – or any funding for child care – was left out of the recent reconciliation agenda, Senator Murray released a statement
calling ‘even more urgent’ to cut child care costs ‘with our child care industry on the brink of collapse – and now with Republicans forcing women to give birth no matter their circumstances’ .

In recent weeks, some Republican lawmakers in various states have proposed ““pro-family” initiatives, such as providing cash benefits to working families, paid parental leave, and reforms and more funding for a federal program that provides food and resources to low-income pregnant and postpartum women and their children. In MississippiState Representative Becky Currie, a Republican who drafted state legislation banning abortion, told the nonprofit newspaper Mississippi Today that she wants the state provide birth control through local health clinics, but acknowledged that some lawmakers oppose proposals that would help women. Some experts say that such proposals don’t go far enough to help families.

Using existing data on the shortage of child care services, the authors of a recent column published by the Brookings Institution
predict a massive shortage of childcare as a result of new abortion bans. Even if birth rates, overall, remain stable, rising numbers of unplanned births could leave the country short of nearly 3 million childcare places within three years. , wrote researchers Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, Margaret Burchinal and Roberta Michnick Golinkoff.

“This shortage will disproportionately affect families of color and those living below the poverty line, making it even more unlikely that underserved families can escape a cycle of poverty without strong government intervention,” they added. .

Government support for poor families is already falling short of what is needed. The percentage of poor families receiving cash assistance through the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program increased decreased since program enactment in 1996, according to a report released earlier this year. State rules vary widely on how families can qualify for assistance and how easily families can apply, meaning access to the program can depend on where a family lives. .

In the absence of federal support for child care, some states and cities have stepped up to try to stabilize the industry. Recent initiatives in Washington and New Mexico, for example, aim respectively to improve the remuneration of educators and to make childcare more affordable for families. Boston Mayor Michelle Wu recently signed a decree
discerning real estate developers pay $100 per square foot of building space for childcare in the city, or provide their own onsite childcare space. For the most part, voters support such initiatives, especially those funded by the federal government.

a july investigation
by Morning Consult found that 58% of respondents believe the federal government has a responsibility to provide childcare assistance to families now that Roe v. Wade was canceled. More than half of respondents also think the government should provide financial assistance to families. Some states and cities have tried to provide financial assistance using broad poverty relief programs, such as a guaranteed income program
— provide support to mothers or families with young children, by reducing the costs associated with meeting basic needs and the costs associated with children.

Kashen, of The Century Foundation, and Sisson, the sociologist, both agree that widespread, federally-led support for families is crucial, particularly because local and state efforts may not reach families who have already thin social safety nets. Some of the states and municipalities that offer the least support for families with children have also enacted the strictest abortion laws and bans. (A recent New York Times analysis
found that states that have banned or are likely to ban abortion tend to have the weakest social services and their residents face poorer health and well-being outcomes.)

Subsidized and widely available child care will be key to supporting families affected by abortion bans, Sisson said, as will initiatives that provide affordable housing. If the federal government does not invest in and strengthen social supports nationwide for families in need, she fears that the task of helping these families will fall to social networks rather than public support systems. “I don’t expect many of these states that prohibit abortion prohibitively to be really successful in providing the support that families need,” she said. “I think it will come from interpersonal relationships or kinship circles. Otherwise, I don’t know where it will come from in a really sustainable way.

This story about post-Roe child care was produced byThe Hechinger Report, an independent, nonprofit news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education. Register forHechinger’s newsletter.

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