Now that unemployment numbers have revealed that women are bearing the brunt of job losses due to the Covid-19 pandemic, discussion of America’s childcare crisis has taken center stage. Data from the Pew Research Center show that mothers have lost three times more jobs than fathers – and women accounted for all jobs lost in December 2020. The results can be devastating. In addition to the short-term economic damage inflicted by job losses, women who experience these employment gaps may face lifelong shortfalls in income and retirement benefits. The mental health of many mothers has also deteriorated, as relayed in dozens of recent media accounts reporting extreme levels of stress, depression and feelings of hopelessness borne by women trying to provide for their children.
The collapse of America’s already fragile childcare system is at the center of this crisis. By some estimates, as many as 4.5 million childcare “slots” may be permanently lost and as many as 40% of childcare providers say they will never reopen. The nation’s makeshift childcare “system” may now be getting public attention – but for millions of working mothers, conflicts between earning wages and caring for children have long been everyday experiences. If, as the pandemic ends, legislators are going to tackle the challenge of ensuring adequate, accessible child care for U.S. families, then the least well-served moms must be front and center in policy creation and implementation. The proposed child tax credit is an important temporary investment for working families, but long term, high-quality universal child care is essential for the nation.
A Persistent Crisis
Millions of low-wage working parents face extreme “choices” as they try to do jobs and care for children. The workforce called “essential” during the pandemic is dominated by working women, many of them mothers. Women are the majority of retail sales workers (77%), grocery clerks (66%), food preparers and wait staff (70%), home health and personal care workers (85%), hospitality clerks and maid service workers (66% and 88%), domestic cleaners (93%), and child care workers (93%). Women of color are significantly overrepresented in these jobs that pay between $22,000-$31,000 annually – about double the average cost of child care for one infant. Many of these occupations require work during evenings, nights, and weekends yet, nationally, less than 10% of providers offer childcare in such hours. Worse, workers in such posts often get little notice about scheduling and shift changes that affect their childcare arrangements.
In hundreds of interviews conducted over the last decade, we have listened to working women coping with these challenges. Moms talked about working two poverty-wage jobs, racing in between different childcare arrangements to pick up, drop off, and pack food – all while trying to reassure anxious children that things are okay. One mother, Maria, who identifies as Mexican American, told us that in 2018 she could scrape together 20 minutes to “visit” her kids between office cleaning and a Pizza Hut job. Working the 12 hours daily meant she could almost cover her bills. Her story was just one of many among moms who bounced between work and family demands on less than five hours of sleep.
No Child Care for Moms Trying to Move Up
Other mothers described trying to escape poverty through higher education or apprenticeships. Ally, a white single mom, was overjoyed to have entered an apprenticeship program in 2020 – not knowing that there was virtually no childcare provider that would take her baby at 5:30 AM. She turned to the classified ad website Craigslist to find “someone safe” and, before COVID anxiety made insomnia a common concern, passed sleepless nights wondering if a pathway out of wage poverty could balance the risks of patchwork child care.
Talia, an African American mother of one child, was going to college full time in 2016 while working retail jobs; working at least 20 hours a week is a requirement to get state childcare help while attending college. Talia’s little house of cards tumbled when her daughter’s chronic ear infections required a tonsillectomy; with no paid leave, she lost her job – and consequently her child care.
In 2020, Emily, who is “Native and white” closed the home-based childcare program that she ran with her spouse after applying for “every kind of pandemic financing that there was.” None came through. Emily thinks that her history of low wages and lack of a previous “banking relationship” killed her applications. She lost her income and the parents of eight children who were doing direct care, retail, and food preparation jobs lost their child care and their jobs.
The Leaders We Need May be the Women We Leave Behind
These women have deep experiential knowledge about the crisis that millions of working parents now face. They know all about tenacity and exhaustion, about performing cheeriness in front of anxious children and later spinning into despair. They know about loyalty and helping each other as sisters, mothers, and grandmothers, as members of neighborhood, labor and faith-based networks. Importantly, they know that if a childcare system emerges in the wake of the pandemic, they are the moms most likely to be left out – just as they have been with other work and family policies.
For example, the Center on Law and Social Policy reports that 93% of low-wage workers and 94% of part-time workers have zero access to paid leave. One in four mothers – disproportionately low-wage workers – returns to work within two weeks of childbirth. Flexibility, highly valued among parents in professional jobs, is upside down for lowest wage workers, who are often forced to work “open schedules” or at the will of the employer, with no stable schedule or income. As the possibility of accessible child care becomes increasingly real, millions of the nation’s families – disproportionately families of color and single mother families – may be left out once again.
Policymakers can make new legislation inclusive by focusing on the needs of the most vulnerable working families and their children. Low-wage moms and their advocates said that inclusive child care must be treated as a public good, like public education, and available to all as soon as they return to work. Child care must include nonstandard hours and drop-in options to help low-wage parents deal with unstable schedules. It must also be designed to address the concerns and cultural diversity of BIPOC families. The double burden carried by single mothers.
Disproportionately working in low-wage inflexible jobs was identified as a major factor to keep in mind when new programs are devised. And, importantly, childcare workers must earn living wages for their valuable work – work that holds up the entire economy as well as individual families.
Research and data for this brief are drawn from Lisa Dodson and Mary King, “Oregon’s Unmet Childcare Needs,” Family Forward Oregon, September 2019; and other published reports.
This article was originally published with Scholars Strategy Network.
Understanding DACA & the Role Social Workers Play in Advancing Immigration Justice
There are approximately 10.5 million undocumented individuals in the United States according to Pew Research. Immigrants often leave their home countries seeking better opportunities and a brighter future. Refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants are escaping poverty, political conflict, natural disasters, and violence. To provide limited relief to some undocumented immigrants, on June 15, 2012, former President Barack Obama used his executive power to create the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. DACA provides approved individuals with work authorization and a social security
number, allowing recipients to apply for driver licenses and identification cards. DACA is a deferred action, meaning that it is discretionary and available only for certain undocumented people who came to the U.S. as children. To qualify for DACA, individuals must meet strict eligibility criteria, which include: arriving in the U.S. before the age of 16, meeting certain educational requirements, being under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012, never being convicted of a felony, and never posing a threat to national
security or public safety. In the following, we’ll explore this program further and the role social workers can play in regards to immigration justice.
DACA in Action
When DACA was first introduced, it brought a sense of relief to the hundreds of thousands of individuals who could benefit from this executive action. One DACA recipient, who was interviewed for this article, discussed in-depth what DACA meant to her and her family. Nataly*, a 32-year-old Mexican woman, was brought to the United States by a coyote at the young age of six. Before DACA, Nataly expressed living in constant fear of deportation and arrest. She stated, “As a kid without documentation, I was embarrassed to talk about my status. When other students talked about going to college, I felt like there was no future for me and I couldn’t move forward.” DACA provided hope to hundreds of thousands of young people like Nataly. After gaining DACA, Nataly described feeling relieved and excited. “I felt hope, happiness, and security about my future. I felt like I could become whoever I wanted; although I faced racism as a DACA recipient trying to enroll in college, I didn’t give up.” DACA recipients must pay out-of-state tuition at most universities, regardless of how long they have been in that State, and in most States they do not qualify for financial student aid.
A Deeper Look at DACA
To fully understand DACA, it is critical to know that DACA does not lead to a path to citizenship or permanent residency and it can be revoked at any time. Although approximately 643,560 people have benefitted from this action, DACA has received wide criticism and opposition from citizens and political figures according to the Center for American Progress. Despite being upheld by the Supreme Court, DACA’s critics cast it as an unlawful solution to deal with undocumented immigrants residing in the United States. As we continue to witness the legal battles unfold in the courts in attempts to rescind the program, Nataly cries and expresses being scared because the U.S. government has access to all of her information and can easily locate her now. Just like Nataly, many DACA recipients, often referred to as Dreamers, are experiencing fears, anxiety, and sometimes depression. They constantly worry about what the court will decide and whether the decision will affect their ability to continue attending school, working, staying in the country, and pursuing their dreams. In addition, they face the persistent fear of deportation and the inability to support their families emotionally and financially. The lives of hundreds of thousands of Dreamers continue to be in turmoil due to the lack of comprehensive immigration reform.
Today, the DACA program is 9 years old and as we look into the future, we need to recognize that Dreamers have demonstrated that they belong in the United States. They are our colleagues, neighbors, friends, and essential workers. They pay $613.8 million in mortgage payments and $2.3 billion in rental payments annually. They also pay $5.7 billion in federal taxes and $3.1 billion in state and local taxes every year. They are part of the fabric of this country. They make tremendous economic contributions to our society, and many of them are on the frontlines treating patients suffering from physical illness and mental health issues caused by the global Coronavirus pandemic.
The Responsibility of Social Workers
As social workers, we are tasked with fighting for social justice for all people. Whether we are allies or are directly affected by this issue, it is imminent that we support and raise our voice on behalf of all the Dreamers. Undocumented immigrants are a vulnerable population and social workers should challenge how Congress, organizations, universities, and all other institutions see and treat Dreamers. Nataly is now a dental hygienist, a small business owner, and a mother of two. This is the only home she knows and remembers. You can help Nataly and hundreds of thousands of Dreamers like her by calling your representatives in Congress, signing petitions, attending calls to action, and educating the public. For more information about how you can get involved, check out immigrant rights organizations such as United We Dream, the UndocuBlack Network, and join the Social Workers United for Immigration network (SWUFI).
*A pseudonym was used to protect the identity of the interviewee.
SWUFI is a network committed to the well-being and advancement of immigrants,
asylum seekers, refugees, and fighting for their rights. Together, we envision access to
resources for immigrants, an immigration movement where social workers stand strong
alongside immigrants and allies at the local, state, and federal levels, and collaboration
among social workers that includes peer support, and educational opportunities. To join,
send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Digital.com Survey: Most Consumers Unlikely to Buy from Companies with Opposing Political Views
Digital.com, a leading independent review website for small business online tools, products, and services, has published a new study to assess consumer behavior towards companies that express political views or affiliation. The survey report examines responses from 1,250 Americans ages 18 and older and highlights key points on how politics and social issues influence their buying decisions.
The study shows that 47 percent of consumers are unlikely to buy products or services from companies not aligned with their political views. Women are also more likely to make purchasing decisions based on political leanings. Fifty-three percent of women say they are unlikely to buy from companies with different political views, compared to 38 percent of men. The top reasons women consider politics when patronizing businesses are that they do not want their money to support causes they oppose, and they want it to have an impact beyond the purchase.
Similarly, women and Hispanic/Latino respondents are least likely to buy from companies that do not have stated DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) policies. The survey indicates that Forty-four percent of women and 50 percent of Hispanic/Latino shoppers will consider these policies when making a purchase. DEI policies are also important among Democrats, with 46 percent who say they are unlikely to patronize businesses that do not have them. Thirty-nine percent of independents and 29 percent of Republicans are against buying products or services from companies without DEI policies.
“Brand alignment and company values are crucial when it comes to attracting loyal customers, and this insightful data can help businesses effectively shape their policies and messaging,” says digital marketing executive Huy Nguyen. “Our study proves that American consumers prefer to spend their money with companies that share their political views and support the same causes.”
Research findings also show that sustainability issues are more significant among specific age groups. Fifty-five percent of Gen Zers, individuals ages 18-24, say they are unlikely to buy from a company that does not have a published sustainability policy. Forty-one percent of respondents aged 25 to 34 years old and 47 percent of 45 to 54-year-olds also have similar views when it comes to sustainability issues and topics.
Digital.com commissioned this study to gain insight into how political and social issues can influence consumer spending habits. Respondents were surveyed regarding their political views and the importance of a company’s political alignment and policies when making purchasing decisions. The survey was distributed on July 21, 2021 via Pollfish, the online survey platform. To access the complete report, please visit here.
Digital.com reviews and compares the best products, services, and software for running or growing a small business website or online shop. The platform collects twitter comments and uses sentiment analysis to score companies and their products. Digital.com was founded in 2015 and formerly known as Review Squirrel. To learn more, visit their website.
Cultivating an Equitable and Anti-Racist Workplace
2020 was filled with unprecedented events in all facets of life, and, as many have noted across the globe, the year became a landmark for the call to action against racism.
From the incident in Central Park, where a white woman called the police on a black bird watcher, to the murder of George Floyd by police officers, and when the police officers who murdered Breonna Taylor in her home were not indicted for their involvement in her murder, it is clear that racism is still very prevalent and pervasive. It reaches far and wide, including at home and in the workplace, where power dynamics and structural racism can be multiplied.
Through his talk, “Social Work’s Role in Black Lives Matter,” Wayne Reid discussed racism’s reach into social workers’ professional lives. In the workplace, there are certain barriers that people of color face that white people do not. To address these barriers and inequities, equality, diversity, and inclusion advisory groups are often created. Too often, the burden of creating these groups and addressing racism in the workplace falls solely on people of color, when it is a fight that requires everyone’s involvement, especially those in positions of power. This is part of the push for people to go beyond being non-racist and to become anti-racist– actively fighting against racism and advocating for changes against racist policies and practices. It is an active, ongoing process, not only in one’s personal life but in professional environments as well.
Creating an Anti-Racist Workplace
Wayne works for the British Association of Social Workers (BASW), which currently has a goal to create a universal anti-racist framework that is applicable to all aspects of the social work field. This includes creating an anti-racist workplace, and Wayne and the BASW have an idea for how that would look. As Wayne described, an anti-racist workplace would have a very specific anti-racist mission statement, making sure to interview people of color, to integrate an anti-racism mentality into policies and procedures, to provide adequate anti-racism training to all staff, and to conduct annual pay reviews for employees of color to ensure they are being paid fairly relative to their white colleagues. With these steps, workplaces would have to take active steps to ensure they were discussing race within the workplace and enforcing anti-racist policies.
On top of these ideas for an anti-racist workplace, including mandatory professional development courses aimed at educating people on how to be anti-racist, anti-discriminatory, and anti-oppressive would be beneficial. There are already experts in the world of anti-racism who have done the groundwork, and their expertise can be utilized to help implement anti-racist practices within workplaces. For example, Stanford University has created an “Anti-Racism Toolkit” for managers to better equip themselves to address racism in the workplace and move towards a more inclusive environment, and the W.K Kellogg Foundation has created a Racial Equity Resource Guide full of training methods and workshops to provide structure for anti-racist professional development.
Wayne also discussed the importance of leadership programs for people of color within their workplaces. In the US, black people only make up 3.2% of senior leadership roles, and only 0.8% of Fortune 500 CEO positions. Employers need to sufficiently invest in leadership training programs and provide the resources to ensure the success of people of color within them. Leadership programs for people of color would help address the lack of people of color in leadership positions within the social work field and beyond. For social work specifically, in conjunction with these leadership programs, employers should create programs allowing social workers of color to mentor senior staff members as well, providing insight for them regarding the challenges people of color face in the workplace. That said, while the benefits of this type of program are important, boundary setting and confidentiality are just as vital and would need to be well thought out prior to implementation.
In order to assist in diversifying leadership, higher education must also be addressed. Despite the increase in people of color attending college, there is still a large imbalance in representation compared to the general US population.
For the social work field, it is important to address the accessibility of social work education programs. Because they are often expensive and have numerous requirements for entry, entry into the field is inaccessible for many. They also need to include a more deliberately anti-racist curriculum, which can be guided by people of color through their lived experiences, as well as experts in the field. The field of social work has long been dominated by white women, and that imbalance has impacted the curriculum that we use today.
As long as people continue to ignore racism and the effects it continues to have, nothing will change. Wayne and the BASW’s work to integrate anti-racist education and policies into the workplace and social work schools is crucial to the future of social work and the progress of anti-racist work. Social work needs to play a large role in the changing of policies and practices to ensure that the future is more equitable for all.
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