Seydi Starr Detroit, Michigan

Childcare hard to access for mothers (Michigan United)


I came to Detroit in 2003 after studying in Paris and getting my bachelors degree. I’m originally from Senegal. I met my husband in France and got married.

I moved to Detroit and had no family support. In December 2004, my daughter was born. She was born with a heart disease. She had surgery at 6 months of age. Then she started doing much better. But I needed to work. But my degree didn’t help, so I had to go back to school. At the same time, my husband and I were divorcing. So what to do? I needed childcare. My daughter was only 9 months old at that time. I couldn’t find anything affordable that was also high quality. All of the places I felt comfortable with were $600 per month. I went to DHS to get help, but because I was on a temporary visa, I could not access childcare subsidies. I found a family friend who was willing to be a caregiver and could get state support to care for my child. But there was so much paperwork for her to quality and reimbursement rates were so low—less than $10/hour—she eventually said she couldn’t do it.
So all I could afford were the places that were not quality childcare spaces. Eventually, I got my daughter into a top flight center through social connections. It was still very expensive. But my ex-husband said he would pay for it.

I couldn’t believe how expensive the system is. For me, it’s the biggest slap in the face. We are the richest country in the world. It shouldn’t be this way. Childcare should be free. Even before childcare, during pregnancy, we need paid time off. And it shouldn’t be tied to poverty. Free for all women. After pregnancy, you don’t have time to bond and rest with your baby. Mothers need at least a year.

We’re (Michigan United) asking for $44 million. It’s nothing compared to what we spend on mass incarceration.
You have to be a good mom and work and be a professional, but we get no support to do anything. I see so many women in the peak of their careers who don’t want to be pregnant because of work and their career. We’re adding stress on top of stress of having a child.

I didn’t choose to be a leader. I started through the immigration work. That’s how I got connected to MI United. I organized my 1st action on the immigration issue. I felt like if all the knowledge I acquired was only helping me, I was not a good person.

In the African community, people are fearful. So they look to me to speak for them. I need to be an advocate. On the other hand, if you don’t have a voice for yourself, no on else can speak for you.