A child care voter lifts her voice

Claricha Foster is a child care provider in Detroit, Michigan, where she is a leader in Mothering Justice.

Those most involved with the care of young children live an impossible choice. Parents can’t afford to pay for quality child care and those providing the care can’t live on poverty wages. Small business owners who are in-home providers can’t afford to pay staff what they deserve and can’t raise prices for parents already struggling with current fees.

There’s only one solution: public support for our most valuable resource, young children. I should not have to ask for donations to build a classroom, or figure out how much paper towel or bleach I can afford to keep my scholars safe.

As a Black owner of a small, in-home care center, my story is typical. I started out as a teaching assistant making only minimum wage. I had to leave the field because I could not afford to live off those wages. I hated being forced out for that reason. I remember when the fight for $15 came up and realizing many people didn’t know that teachers and early care providers were trying to make it on such a low minimum wage.

Fast forward a few years later to my becoming an employer. I now see the barriers to affordable wages and recognize how expensive it is to provide quality care without charging families an amount that I feel is immoral. At the same time, I can not pay people $10 an hour and expect quality care for our children.

The majority of people I work with are middle class workers who can not afford quality care. I don’t serve anyone who is rich, and I don’t serve anyone who qualifies for state assistance. It’s really difficult to figure out how much to charge families in order to cover supplies, rent and staff. I have been open for two years and I still barely make enough to survive. Prior to 2019 I worked from 7:00 to 3:30 in my childcare center and then worked a second job doing ABA therapy in order to pay my assistant.

When the pandemic struck, I did not qualify for the PPP loan at first. I was already considering closing because I had been working alone since 2019. I had an assistant and support from my mother, but my mother had to leave to care for a sick family member. The same week, my assistant left because I could not pay her adequately. That meant I worked 11 hours a day with several two-year-olds. By the time COVID hit I was completely exhausted from working solo.

Then the state shut down for three months. I refocused by myself as an educator. On top of everything else, I came down with COVID and did not know I had it because I was so used to being tired from working such long hours. Body aches and fatigue are normal for me. Thankfully no one contracted it and the families were protected, but I should have had more support to keep them safe.

When I reopened my business this summer, I facilitated lessons in my outdoor classroom to encourage social distancing. Unfortunately, I didn’t have money to start the program so I asked my online friends to support me through donations. The donations allowed me to hire someone part-time and get materials. Although I was fortunate to have the power of community, I should not have had to ask for that help. There should be support from our state and federal government for early childhood care, just as there is for public education.

I’m proud to be part of a growing movement of child care providers, workers and parents fighting to make sure that every family can afford quality care, every worker can earn a living wage, and every provider can succeed in growing their small business and contributing to their community. As a child care voter, I am lifting my voice and the voice of others care providers to ensure candidates hear us and know that our votes will go to those who have a strong vision for child care in this nation.

Claricha Foster is a child care provider in Detroit, Michigan, where she is a leader in Mothering Justice.



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Family Values @ Work

Family Values @ Work

27 state coalitions working to win for Paid Sick Days, Paid Leave and other policies that value families at work in your city, county and state, then nation.