I write about the childcare crisis a lot. That means I can rattle off a lot of numbers and statistics and facts at people. Stuff like: Sixty percent of businesses in the childcare industry are minority-owned and 50% of those minority-owned childcare centers faced the prospect of closing in 2020.
I can tell you that Amazon delivery drivers make more hourly than day care workers, that the cost of day care is almost as much as rent in some cities, and that 72% of older Americans strongly oppose paying for universal childcare.
More off the top of my head: There are 20 million kids under age 5 in the United States but there aren't enough childcare spots for all the families that need them and the pandemic means spots are even more scarce. The U.S. might lose half of its childcare centers by the time this is all over.
I can write about the percentages and the ratios and what an effective bailout would have looked like and what moms and kids need and what worked in other countries...but all the numbers and stats and studies in my bookmarks could never tell this story the way that director Loira Limbal did in her film Through The Night, which launches in dozens of virtual cinemas across the country today.
Limbal's documentary translates all the figures into a human story. Its the story of a society that is failing families. Where working hard doesn't pay and where the burden of caring for children is downloaded to underappreciated and underpaid BIPOC buissness owners like the star of Limbal's film, day care center owner Deloris "Nunu" Hogan, who (along with her husband Patrick) cares for children of women who must work overnight (like in the case of an exhausted pediatric nurse), or even, around the clock (as the case with one mom who must work three jobs just to survive).
Watch the film's moving trailer here:
The film was shot before the COVID-19 pummelled this already fragile industry, but the reality reflected in Through The Night needs to be considered by lawmakers as President-elect Joe Biden moves toward his plan for childcare.
"We need to make high-quality childcare affordable and accessible," Biden tweeted in July. "As president, I'll give every 3- and 4-year-old access to free, high-quality preschool. And low- to middle-income families won't spend more than 7% of their income on quality care for children under age 5."
It's estimated that the typical family would end up paying about $45 a week for day care under the plan and the lowest-income families would have fully-covered childcare. That would be life-changing for many families, like the mom in Through The Night who works three jobs but still can't pay for day care without subsidies for her daughters.
Parents shouldn't have to work three jobs to survive and day care providers should not be holding up this broken system with little more than their sheer will to help others.
As Keesha M. Middlemass, Ph.D., an associate professor in the Department of Political Science at Howard University, previously told Motherly, it is time for America to recognize the racism that's inherent in the country's childcare system.
"We all uplift mothers, but we don't uplift the largely Black and Brown women that take care of children," she told me back in July. "When you start thinking about who takes care of children before they're in school full time, it really tends to be women of color. They are underpaid and don't have any real support in the legislative branch of government that could actually improve funding and improve pay."
It's not enough to make day care affordable for parents. We also have to make sure that providers are paid what they are worth--which is so, so much more than $11.50 an hour, as one mom in the film is offered to work in the industry. Because as Through The Night shows us, childcare providers are the foundation our economy is based on. They are providing a service we cannot go without. Childcare is a maximum need. Those providing it should not be earning minimum wage.