Sep 4 • 11M

Read my story on the childcare crisis in Oregon Business magazine

This month's cover story takes an in-depth look at how the economy is hampered by lack of care options

 
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Alt text  A newsletter layout. “Oregon Business” at the top then a black bar that says “Weekly Picks: September 2, 2022” over a row of social media buttons. A sepia toned photo of a white mother in front of a laptop with her hand at her brow and her eyes closed. A toddler facing away from the camera pulls on her arm. They are in a messy living room. The caption reads: “A Crisis of Care” and “Oregon is rolling out new child care supports — including a $100 million investment — but advocates say the funding is ‘just a drop in the bucket’ for a crisis that’s hampering economic growth around the state.”
A screenshot of Oregon Business magazine’s newsletter featuring my cover story.

It’s out! This summer, for Oregon Business magazine, I talked to child care and business experts around my home state about Oregon’s new $100 million investment in child care and how even more needs to be done on child care for a healthy economy.

The story is focused on Oregon’s particular problems and solutions, but the issues are nearly universal in this country. The care economy has a significant impact on the traditional economy for a very simple reason: Time is finite. When people need to care for other people, that time can’t be spent doing other things, like working.

I think society tends to ignore these issues or see them as a secondary concern to hotter topics like taxes, debt relief and economic stimulus programs, but lack of care options has a major effect on economic growth. For the Oregon Business story, I spoke to an economist in the state office, Josh Lehner, about it. He said not only could this be affecting how many people have to leave their careers just as they get started, but it could be affecting the number of people born and living in Oregon.

Without more attention being paid to these sorts of family issues, Lehner says he sees big consequences to the state.

“If you can’t find a house or apartment that meets your needs, and you can’t find child care that meets your needs, you’re just not going to live there,” Lehner says.

Oregon did have a pretty major investment during the last legislative session in child care, thanks to federal stimulus dollars. The $100 million is going to help fund construction costs of new or improved child care centers, Employment Related Day Care subsidies to parents, Preschool Promise grants, and a new state agency dedicated to early childhood education and child care.

Officials estimate the new programs will create 6,000 new child care spots. But it still won’t be enough.

“We were a child care desert before the pandemic,” [Oregon Early Learning system director Alyssa] Chatterjee says. “We’re anticipating seeing things have gotten worse before they get better.”

The agency head says early learning and child care have been treated as a private good that families are on their own to secure — unlike K-12 education — and that’s bad for the economy.

“This is a sector that’s really built off of the backs of families,” Chatterjee says, noting that with demand far outpacing supply, “the only way to [grow] is to charge families more.”

And why is that? For as long as humans have existed, human children have existed and so have elderly and disabled people. Those care needs did not just suddenly appear. For Oregon Business, I also explored the historical factors at play and challenged mainstream assumptions about who should care about care.

So if this is such a huge deal — affecting the future of humanity, the statewide economy and every corner of the state — how did care get to be so undervalued in the first place?

Courtney Helstein, senior political director of the advocacy group Family Forward, says it’s simple: racism and sexism.

“It’s because, since the beginning of this country and long before then, it’s because women — and particularly women of color — have been trapped into these roles,” Helstein says.

Family Forward’s goal, Helstein says, is to “bring about this systems change and to really kind of shift the narrative that, actually, caregiving is extremely valuable, whether paid or unpaid.”

Read the full version of my story on the child care crisis in the September 2022 magazine or online at: https://oregonbusiness.com/article/education/item/19638-a-crisis-of-care.

Make sure to read to the end as the sidebar talks about a big change coming to day care programs in Oregon for disabled children by 2026.

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Medical Motherhood’s news round up

Snippets of news and opinion from outlets around the world. Click the links for the full story.

• From Variety: “Netflix Partners With RespectAbility on New Program for Disabled Children’s Content Writers and Animators

RespectAbility has teamed up with Netflix to create a new Children’s Lab for disabled TV creators, which will provide education and training for disabled writers, animators, and creative executives looking to focus on preschool and children’s content.

The training program, funded by Netflix’s Fund for Creative Equity, will include a five-week course featuring programming by New York-based production partners 9 Story Media Group and Silvergate Media. As part of the lab, participants will each be assigned a mentor as they join in-person and virtual workshops, trainings, panel conversations, networking events, and a talent showcase with table reads of each writer’s project performed by disabled actors. The Children’s Content Lab will also provide a week of career development training with industry experts.

• From the New York Times: “This Teen Was Prescribed 10 Psychiatric Drugs. She’s Not Alone.

“You can very cogently argue that we don’t have evidence about what it means to be on multiple psychotropic medications,” said Lisa Cosgrove, a clinical psychologist at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. “This is a generation of guinea pigs.”

A study published in 2020 in the journal Pediatrics found that 40.7 percent of people ages 2 to 24 who were prescribed a drug for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder were also prescribed at least one other medication for depression, anxiety, or another mood or behavioral disorder. The study found more than 50 different psychotropic medicines prescribed in such combinations, and a review by The New York Times found that roughly half of the drugs were not approved for use in adolescents, although doctors have discretion to prescribe as they see fit.

• From Dallas Morning News: “Inspired by ailing daughter, family makes accessible clothes for kids with disabilities

Charlotte’s parents are making her final months meaningful. But they have already cemented her legacy: They have started a clothing company called The Charlotte Letter that makes adaptive clothing, providing dignity and accessibility for children with disabilities.

[…]The Charlotte Letter Clothing Company started as a Facebook group in November 2019, where the Brookses would post updates about Charlotte’s health for their family and friends. The name is a play on The Scarlet Letter. In the way the scarlet “A” is the first thing someone notices, so is a physical disability, Stephanie said.

The Charlotte Letter sells clothes and accessories geared toward kids ages 4 and older. Infant and toddler clothing is primarily still accessible — designers expect children that young to still be wearing diapers, Stephanie said.

The company sells rompers with access for a feeding tube that is typically inserted into a patient’s stomach. The rompers also feature zippers for quick access to diapers, and dropped waistlines that don’t catch onto feeding tubes.

All of their clothing is designed with fun patterns and colors so the children wearing them can feel confident about what they have on, Kameron said.

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