Experience is the best teacher. And, experience teaches that the greatest possibilities and most effective solutions unfailingly follow acts of good conscience. This is why there is no better time than the present for our leaders in Annapolis to boldly shine the light of ‘good conscience’ on our state’s lackluster child care subsidy.
‘Good intention’ – the 8% increase proposed by the governor that would add a mere $8.72 to our state’s typical $109 weekly childcare voucher – will not be enough. ‘Good intention’ falls far short of what acting in ‘good conscience’ requires. The recent federal warning to our state that Maryland is at risk for “not allowing equal access” to childcare notwithstanding, it is simply shameful and shortsighted for our legislators not to see what the experience of the last 15 years has taught us – where the experience of the last 15 years has brought us. It is time – it is well past time – for the right-thinking of ‘good conscience.’ It is time for our legislators to act in a way that will help lift Maryland’s economy by removing a significant barrier for working women and families who are experiencing poverty.
Fully accessible, readily available, and financially meaningful childcare vouchers for working parents who may also be trying to create better lives for themselves through education is one of the most effective solutions and best investments we could make – for the health and well-being of families and our state’s economy.
For Caroline Center, a nonprofit workforce development organization that educates and prepares women in Baltimore City who are experiencing underemployment and unemployment for new, sustainable careers as certified nursing assistants and certified pharmacy technicians, the significance of strong legislation on this issue at this time cannot be underestimated.
For financially vulnerable families – for women with great capacity, unlimited potential, and very limited resources – there is no ‘good conscience’ reason why Maryland should remain content to just ‘settle’ by only slightly moving the needle on our childcare voucher issue – to get comfortable in a place that might look like a little progress is being made, while hundreds of thousands of dollars in human capital go to waste.
If our legislators are listening, we would like them to hear these words from a Caroline Center graduate – “If you want an urban renaissance, start with the women. Start with me.” At Caroline Center, we start with women – many of them, like the women interviewed for this article, would only be able to sustain their education and training here for new careers with affordable, quality daycare.
If Maryland’s childcare voucher rates stay among the lowest in the nation; and, if the copayments on what few vouchers are available to working parents remain among the highest in the nation, then we are doing far worse than “not allowing equal access” that the federal government has admonished us for. We are saying that we’re okay with the chronic marginalization of talent and workforce potential that the past 15 years has left us with. Let’s not kill the great opportunity we have with ‘good intention.’ Let’s act instead guided by right-thinking and ‘good conscience.’
Patricia McLaughlin, SSND, Executive Director