03 August 2010

Grantee 'Parent Voices' Organizes to Save Child Care in CA

One of the great things about working at the Ms. Foundation is that you get the chance to be utterly inspired by the work our grantees are doing, often on a daily basis. Today, that inspiration emanates from California, where our grantee Parent Voices is using remarkably creative methods to counter proposed budget cuts that would seriously threaten child care programs throughout the state.

Parent Voices is a parent-led grassroots organization fighting to make quality child care affordable and accessible to all families. Because they are based in California, they have a special interest in fighting Governor Schwarzenegger's proposal to eliminate nearly all state funding for child care. From subsidies to infrastructure -- you name it, and the Governator is looking to do away with it.

Along with using traditional measures to challenge these proposed cuts (partnering with legislative leaders; building coalitions), the leaders at PV also came up with an ingenious tactic for raising awareness of the issue and encouraging more folks to speak out against the cuts.

Timed to coincide with the opening of the California State Fair in mid-July, PV created an event called the "California State UN-Fair," which drew an audience of more than 250 parents, children and child care providers from around the state. The event's goal was to spread the word that cuts to child care are only likely to result in further job losses, and to urge the state legislature to protect programs that keep parents and child care providers working. The carnival-themed event featured games like:
  • "The Wheel of Misfortune" -- where, however you spin the wheel, a proposed child care cut or welfare cut results in families suffering and the loss of a job
  • "Funding Tug O' War" -- to show how proposed cuts to health and human services impact both children and their parents
  • "The Child Care Gamble" -- where a toy landing on either rent, utilities, gas, and car insurance determined which bill would not be paid if cuts to child care went through
The event leaders also created a soup line, where they gave out free Cup-o-Noodles to attendees. And participants were given the opportunity to take direct action on the issue of the day by calling US Representative Barbara Lee and voicing their concerns about the need for federal child care funding as states continue to falter.

Not only did the event draw a crowd in the hundreds, but more than 25 media outlets picked up the story and ran with it. Legislators and other local organizations had nothing but great feedback to share -- and most importantly, just one day later, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Education, Labor and HHS (which Barbara Lee sits on), approved a $700 million increase to the Child Care and Development Block Grant. Two weeks later, the Senate Appropriations Committee increased federal child care funding by $1 billion.

What a win for PV! The problems with child care in California aren't over by a long-shot, but their creative, compelling organizing is helping to build a safer world for millions of children across their state and beyond.

See what we mean by inspiring?

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