As a young, single parent in Omaha, Nebraska, applying for subsidized childcare was a frustrating, exhausting, and cumbersome process. I was excited to receive custody of my son, but I had to wait until the court decision to start applying for childcare. Without the adequate time, and resources to prepare for this transition, I felt overwhelmed with how I would go to work to pay my bills and stay self-sufficient while making sure someone was watching my child. I reached out to family members and friends who plugged in when they could and temporarily watched my son while I went to work. I still needed to find a long-term solution for quality childcare that was affordable and reliable.
The application process for childcare was challenging to navigate because of the amount of paperwork and documentation, processing time, follow-ups, and additional information they needed to confirm my eligibility status.
It took months to get approved for subsidized childcare, which left my son and I in a vulnerable position to make ends meet.
When you compare the United States to other industrialized countries, we are not progressive in having a robust, affordable childcare system. In a New York Times article (Miller 2021), it highlighted the major differences in childcare between the United States and Denmark:
Typical 2-year-olds in Denmark attend child care during the day, where they are guaranteed a spot, and their parents pay no more than 25 percent of the cost. That guaranteed spot will remain until the children are in after-school care at age 10. If their parents choose to stay home or hire a nanny, the government helps pay for that, too. Two-year-olds in the United States are less likely to attend formal child care. If they do, their parents pay full price — an average $1,100 a month — and compete to find a spot. If their parents stay home or find another arrangement, they are also on their own to finance it, as they will be until kindergarten. (paras. 1-2)
The United States needs better policies, funding, and systems for childcare to help families thrive; this includes young families, especially those who are systems-impacted to end the inter-generational cycle of child welfare involvement. As someone with lived experience in the child welfare system, I overcame a lot of adversity, earned my associate’s degree, and built a career for myself as a full-time architect. As a young father, I want to make sure I set myself up in the best way possible to care for my family. Unfortunately, doing so is difficult when you don’t have the proper support, such as childcare. We need to reform the current childcare system by allocating more funds, expanding it to serve more families, making it more affordable, simplifying the application process, investing in childcare professionals, and paying childcare professionals an equitable wage for their skills.
Azar Webb is a young parent leader for the Youth Power, Parent Power initiative. The Youth Power, Parent Power initiative partners with expectant and parenting youth to transform standards of care across public systems and communities so that they can succeed and thrive. Azar began his local and state advocacy journey over 10 years ago as a Youth Advocate Leader for Project Everlast in Omaha, Nebraska. Azar demonstrated his leadership while advocating for foster youth, educating foster parents, Senators, judges, and other stakeholders, and supporting youth and young adults in identifying and obtaining safe and stable housing. His work at the local and state level earned him a nomination to go through the Jim Casey Initiative’s Youth Leadership Institute. In 2015 Azar became a Jim Casey Fellow. In addition to being an advocate, Azar received his Associate of Architectural Design from Metro Community College in Nebraska and has a successful career as an architect.