By Kimberly Storin
The lack of affordable, accessible child care in our community is a quiet crisis affecting families across our region.
I heard this message louder than ever a few weeks ago when I attended a panel discussion hosted by Austin Community Foundation’s Women’s Fund. There, MJ Korpela of MAYA Consulting led panelists with professional and lived experience in a discussion about the hardships faced by mothers without equitable access to childcare.
Data proves that meaningful engagement in the workforce for women with children requires access to safe, quality, culturally competent, and affordable child care that is conveniently located for families with low incomes. Yet, in Austin, this is harder than ever due to the rapidly rising cost of living.
It’s important to note that inequitable access to child care is not a result of the system being broken–the system is working exactly as it was designed. Like many challenges in our community, from housing to education to healthcare and beyond, systemic racism is one of the biggest obstacles to closing the opportunity gap in Austin and improving economic security for local women and children. It’s the reason that BIPOC mothers are disproportionately likely to face significant barriers to finding child care.
In our panel discussion, it became clear that to truly address these issues we need to look at the whole family unit and significantly invest in two-generation (2Gen) programs. 2Gen programs employ wraparound services to help mothers become more skilled for the workforce while addressing the needs of the whole family unit by helping them build a community of support. Panelist Christina Collazo, Founder and Executive Director of Todos Juntos, a Women’s Fund grant partner that shares this multigenerational approach, stated, “To be a mother who’s facing a lot of adversity and to come to a place where you are respected, where you are valued, and where your culture is honored… I think that’s really necessary.” The Women’s Fund believes strongly in funding organizations like Todos Juntos where both children and their parents can receive holistic support to better their educational outcomes and develop a stronger path to career success. For many young children, school readiness, a critical component of closing the opportunity gap, cannot be achieved without caregivers having this level of integrated support.
As investors in data-driven community work, the Women’s Fund has made big strides in identifying ways for us to better fund local child care organizations, with an emphasis on funding BIPOC led and serving organizations. It starts with unrestricted funding–this ensures that we are building a trust-based relationship with local nonprofits and empowering them to make decisions that best serve the needs of their clients and employees. Additionally, Dr. Choquette Hamilton, CEO of RISE Child Development Center, emphasized that receiving a grant from the Women’s Fund provided credibility and paved the way for future investors in their work, showing the importance of funding emerging nonprofits that have not traditionally been in the spotlight.
In 2022, the Women’s Fund will distribute grants to 24 emerging and established nonprofits dedicated to helping women in Central Texas thrive, five of which will deal specifically in providing child care to families in need. Save the date for our upcoming grants celebration on May 19, and learn more about past Women’s Fund grant partners and how you can get involved in this important work here.
Kimberly Storin is the current chair of the Women’s Fund Steering Committee.