Advocates say there’s a child care crisis in Illinois.
A recent report from the Illinois Child Care for All Coalition, which includes the Service Employees International Union Healthcare Illinois, argues that child care in the state is “unavailable, unaffordable and unsustainable.”
According to the findings, child care is the largest expense for parents of children ages 4 to 8.
More than half of the population surveyed — 58% — live in areas where there aren’t enough nearby child care providers.
And one in five early childhood educators in Illinois live in poverty.
Marie Cook, a child care worker at Centers for New Horizons, has been in the industry for 42 years. And during the past two decades, she said her paycheck has stayed the same. She says as opposed to when she first started, retirement doesn’t look like an option.
“It’s a mismatch when it comes to child care now — we do the most important work where our pay does not match,” Cook said.
That low pay is one of the reasons why child care capacity is decreasing, said Erica Bland-Durosinmi, executive vice president of Service Employees International Union Healthcare Illinois.
The report finds that from 2012 to 2019 in Illinois, licensed family child care capacity declined 20% and the number of license-exempt family child care homes declined by 65%.
“When we look at people who are coming into this profession, they’re coming into this profession because they want to make sure they’re providing quality care, but who can provide quality care when you’re required to have a license to take care of children and you’re making $7.04 an hour,” Bland-Durosinmi said.
Justin Russell, a parent and part of Southsiders Organized for Unity and Liberation, said his experience navigating child care in the state could be “a nightmare.” He said there were times when his copay fluctuated between $4 a week to $125 a week.
“If you don’t have child care, that means a limited access to new jobs, you won’t be able to go to school, any of that stuff,” Russell said.
Bland-Durosinmi said Walmart, McDonalds and Amazon — the top three employers of the Child Care Assistance Program parents —should pay their fair share in taxes to help the state pay for the child care system.
“We think that everyone should have access to child care, no matter your race, your age, your income, your ZIP code — that requires corporations paying their fair share,” she said.