This article is based on the presentation that Laura Kohn gave alongside working parent Dita Quiñones at the Workforce Frontiers Symposium on November 8. Video of the conversation is available below.
There are things that go well together—like chocolate and peanut butter or rainy days and good books. And then there are things that not only go well together, they are completely interdependent. Like the ocean and surf boards—no ocean, no surf boards—or voting and democracy—no voting, no democracy.
Child care and workforce are like that: an interdependent pair. If there were no working parents, there would be virtually no need for child care. And it goes the other way too. If there’s no child care, then parents of young children can’t work—unless one parent makes enough money to support the whole family, which is rarely feasible in an expensive place like San Diego.
Given that interdependency, one would think that the system that helps people get into the workforce (which includes the San Diego Workforce Partnership) and the system that helps people find and afford child care would be inherently intertwined. That we would be serving families jointly. But this has not been the case.
Working parent Dita Quiñones spent years juggling unstable housing and child care arrangements, which kept her limited to unbenefited and unpredictable freelance work in her field of journalism.
“I’m the new face of poverty. College educated. Survivor of an abusive relationship. Single mom. Journalist. Woman of color. Determined to make the best life for my son. Not just sitting around waiting for welfare checks that aren’t enough to live here,” she shared.
Quiñones’ situation dramatically improved when she secured a full time spot for her son at Educational Enrichment Systems, a local provider of subsidized high quality care. Quiñones immediately increased her coursework to full time so she could complete her degree, and she was also able to complete an industry internship. With the credential and experience under her belt, she was able to secure full time employment in broadcast journalism.
Yet even as a full-time worker in her dream industry, child care remains a struggle. Quiñones’ current income is barely enough to cover living expenses, yet is slightly too high to qualify for child care subsidies for after school care for her son, who is now six years old.
Until very recently, if a parent utilizing services at a career center expressed a need for child care in order to work, we might hand them a flyer or advise them to dial 2-1-1. That was all we had to offer. But all that is changing thanks to an amazing group of partners called the 2Gen Workgroup.
The 2Gen Workgroup includes key players in the workforce and child care systems: the YMCA, Childcare Development Associates, the Department of Child Support Services, Neighborhood House Association, First Five, the San Diego County Office of Education, 2-1-1, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the San Diego Housing Authority and the San Diego Workforce Partnership.
It’s called the 2Gen Workgroup because when we all work together, we will help more parents get to work and keep their jobs because they have reliable child care. We will help more children get quality care and education from skilled providers rather than ad hoc babysitting from friends or relatives. We will support healthy families because when they are not struggling to make ends meet, they are less stressed and that’s good for children’s brain development and mental health. We will impact two generations.
Starting this month, we are taking first steps to weave our systems together with career center and youth program case managers helping parents sign up for child care subsidies. Plus, the workforce and child care partners are setting up office hours at each other’s facilities. We are working on the true systems change goals where we integrate our enrollment systems and service models and start to serve whole families instead of just job seekers and just children.
It will take time to accomplish the true integration that families need and deserve, but the partners are committed to this objective.