The summer break for students is quickly coming to an end as parents prepare for the coming school year. But for one Bay Area mother the approaching year brings on a perennial problem.
Claudia Martin is a single mother of two who struggles to find affordable child care for her daughters every year. She’s become an advocate for child care subsidies for working parents in the San Francisco area. She’s lobbied City Hall, attending a mayor’s budget meeting in May with other residents to bring attention to child care, housing and work schedules.
Claudia believes that better access to child care would help put her life back on track, allowing her to find a full-time job or continue her education.
“I was also in school fall of 2014 and didn’t enroll in 2015 because I was unable to get the hours I needed,” Claudia said. “I can’t take classes because I can’t find child care … It’s also created hardship for me trying to find work.”
Claudia was a masseuse for 17 years, but has had difficulty finding work after injuring her right arm that would accommodate her schedule taking care of her daughters. During the 2014-2015 school year, Claudia did not find afterschool child care for her daughter, Fiorella, 9, and that made it difficult to find a job that would allow her to leave in the middle of the day.
“It creates hardships financially because I can’t get the hours I need to support my family,” said Claudia. She’s frustrated because she feels “stuck” in her situation as a result.
The subsidies help low-income families pay for child care that provide educational programs. Claudia believes the subsidies help low income families find stability.
“I’d rather have the money for child care instead of welfare. It feels more like a win-win for children,” Claudia said. And with lower income families spending close to 37% of their income on child care, it is win for parents too.
Claudia’s been able to cover the high cost of San Francisco rent with the help of child support and workers compensation, but she still faces a conundrum when the possibility for work presents itself.
Her children have received care during the summer, which frees her up to work as a doula, a Greek word for mother’s helper. But as the school year approaches, Claudia is unsure of whether her school-aged daughter will receive after school child care.
“In the summer I could work until 4,” Claudia said, but when her daughter must be picked up from school at 2:40, it cuts into her employment options.
“What I would make at a job will not cover rent and food,” she said. . “I feel judged because I’m not financially surviving, but at the same time who is going to take care of my kids? Pick them up? It’s always on me no matter what.”
Currently about 62% of elementary school children in San Francisco are provided with after school programs. The Mayors budget has attempted to provide some relief with a 23% increase for programs aimed at services for children, about $690.4 million. The additional funding will eliminate the wait list for summer programs and will include $2.5 million to help provide an additional 820 new spots for after child care.
The government of San Francisco has implemented a number of laws to encourage parents to get back to work and also have a work schedule that puts their families first. The Family Friendly ordinance says if a workers asks an employer (with 20 or more employees) if they can have a schedule that allows them to take care of their families, such as picking up a child from school or taking an elderly parent to a doctor’s appointment, that employer must have a valid reason to deny the parent or care taker a right to those hours.
Claudia is the woman in the red jacket to the right. Photo credit: Parent Voices.