In February, the Women’s Foundation of California joined the California Budget Project and testified at a legislative hearing in Sacramento. They described how budget cuts have taken a severe toll on the lives of women and families. Daniella Scally, a member of grant partner Parent Voices, also gave a moving testimony about childcare’s role in changing her life. Here is an excerpt.
My name is Daniella Scally. I have three children, a 13 year old son and 4 year old twins. At 19, I was homeless and a single mother. Thankfully I was able to turn to the CalWORKs program for help. After being on welfare for about a year, I started working two jobs and eventually got a place I could call home, a car, and most importantly my self esteem back. A common stereotype of someone utilizing any kind of assistance is that they are lazy and just want a hand out. When in actuality it is exactly the opposite.
For the past five years I have worked a full time job as a Contract Administrator/HR Generalist for a local landscaping company. I will be graduating with honors this summer from American River College with an associate’s degree in business. I am proud of these accomplishments and how far I’ve come, but I sit before you today at risk of losing it all.
As a low income working parent I truly live check to check and there are times my kids have had to go without because of it. Like many of the people in this room, I work 40 hours a week, the difference is, what I earn doesn’t give me enough to make ends meet. There are times I have ran out of food before my next check comes in and have had to go to food banks to feed the kids.
Child care is the only thing that has allowed me to continue to work. But once again I stand to lose the very child care that I need to continue to work. I currently pay approximately $300.00 a month towards my child care costs, it is affordable. New proposed cuts to income eligibility would terminate my child care because I am “higher-income.” I would go from paying $300/month to paying $1,500.00/month. I simply wouldn’t be able to afford the quality care my twins and I depend on. So by following all the rules, progressing forward in my job, and arriving steps away from reaching economic security, these proposed cuts would punish me for doing everything right, and put me back at square one because losing my child care will force me to quit my job.
I worked two jobs and spent several hours a day on the bus getting back and forth to work to get out of poverty. I have lived with no electricity and not known how I was going to feed the kids some nights. My day starts at 6:00am, I work until 5pm everyday and by the time I come home and make dinner, do homework with the kids, do baths, and then finally do my own homework it is after 10pm. I have horrible anxiety when I think about the possibility of doing all of this just to end up back in poverty. If I lose my child care that is where I will be in a matter of two months. I don’t have any savings and I don’t have any family to help. It is me and my children, that’s it.
For the past two years I have been on the worst roller coaster ride ever. It seems like every few months my life line — childcare — is back on the chopping block. Emotionally and physically I am drained. Working and going to school full time does not leave much room for anything else.
My 13 year old son did not receive the child care or pre-schooling my 4-year olds have. I had to leave him with whoever was willing to watch him while I went to school or work. I remember one incident where I had left him with a neighbor while I went to work. I was later told he was hit in the middle of a domestic altercation between the neighbor and her boyfriend. Another neighbor I left him with wasn’t paying attention when he pulled the iron down and burned his arm leaving a permanent scar. These are only a couple examples of what can happen when you can’t afford quality child care.
Because my 13 year old didn’t have a quality child care experience, he was held back and did not start kindergarten until he was 6 years old. He didn’t start talking until he was almost 3 years old, and he now has behavioral problems that I partially attribute to his childhood from 0-3. Because of the child care and pre-schooling my 4 year old twins have received they are academically ready for kindergarten and extremely advanced compared to other 4 year olds.
It is time for the legislature to realize that child care is a down payment in the life of a child and stop using children as pawns in the budget process. Republicans and Democrats need to come together and invest in our future by allocating the necessary funds to child care and safety net programs and seek revenue solutions instead. These programs have helped me to secure a decent future, and I hope that all of you will fight to reject these cuts and keep these investments in tact. These programs give us hope. Hope, that poverty doesn’t have to be a life sentence. When the CalWORKs program and its work and educational supports, like child care are fully funded, this program works. I am a testament to it.
For more information, check out Peter Goodman’s article, Child Care Program Cuts Leave Working Poor Parents Struggling.
Stand with women like Daniella. Subsidized child care, CalWORKS and Cal Grants have been cut enough. Tell the legislature to come up with wise revenue solutions, and NOT balance the budget on the backs of women and children. Click here to send your letter.