One evening 10 years ago, I rushed home from work to pick up my one-year-old daughter at her new caregiver’s house. When I arrived, I found my daughter strapped into her high chair, where she had apparently been restrained for hours. She fell apart when she saw me, sobbing and reaching out from the straps of the seat; her lower body was covered with a rash and a diaper that had not been changed in hours. The day before, her first there, had been little better: she had spent significant time in the high chair then, too, although I did not know it at the time. We never brought her to that caregiver again. I still struggle with the guilt I feel for ever bringing her there at all.
I was not a negligent or apathetic parent; I was simply desperate for childcare. At the time, I was an active duty Marine Corps pilot with a Marine husband preparing to deploy again. The on-base military childcare system had failed us — we were waitlisted for a center, but I had to work and had no options. Instead, I found a caregiver through the National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies, now known as Child Care Aware of America.
After two more months of patchwork care, more negative experiences with providers, exhausted vacation days, and constant stress, I scored a spot for my daughter at another on-base Family Child Care (FCC) home. Unfortunately, she, too, moved about 18 months later, throwing us back into the maelstrom. My childcare problems were never solved. As a result, I left active duty — along with retirement and college savings and a career I had loved — and transitioned to the Reserves, where I could occasionally work with infrequent and unreliable childcare.
My family is far from unique in our childcare woes. New America’s Better Life Lab recently released its Care Report, one of the most thorough and comprehensive analyses ever completed on childcare in the United States. The Care Report measures childcare across the country in three areas: cost, quality, and availability. The results of the Care Report are demoralizing.
[For more of this story, written by Jeannette Haynie, go to https://psmag.com/the-military...0a62809dc#.oyus65dic]