The Most Important Senate Bill You’ve Never Heard Of

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Nothing beats
childcare as a bore-everyone-to-tears parenting subject.  Long wait-lists; caregiver-child ratios; the
pros and cons of in-home versus institutional care; the prevalence of germs;
late fees; how to certify employees.

When that
positive pregnancy test sent you over the moon, did you ever think your joy
would be reduced to this?

When it comes
to childcare, the details verge on grim.

Unless it is
your child who is being cared for.

Then there
are few things about which parents are more passionate. 

Once you have
a child, there comes a rude awakening: you can’t accomplish anything, including
getting out of your house to go to work, without high-quality, affordable
childcare.  Unless you know your child is
safe, you can’t get a single thing done responsibly; you are too busy holding
back tears, calling every half-hour to check in, or wondering whether to
install a secret camera in your child’s forehead (kidding!).  

And for the righteous who proclaim that every
child should be at home with Mom: not every family wants or can afford for one
parent to stay home, since a full-time, stay-at-home parent is the most
expensive childcare option on earth. 
Most families with young children, especially low-income families, rely
every day on daycare provided by someone else.

For too long,
our politicians, news reporters, advocates and policy makers for the most part
ignored a building block of successful working parenthood, a public good that
benefits everyone as much as sidewalks, smooth roads, public hospitals and a
local fire station do.

Fortunately,
there are finally a few determined politicians who share working parents’
passionate belief that, with a little help and understanding from the so-called
“village”, it is possible to be a good parent and a good employee at the same
time – as long as your children can go to a clean, regulated, happy and
well-run daycare center.

Last
Thursday, Congress passed a big news bill that you probably didn’t hear
anything about, since the subject of daycare doesn’t make for juicy Internet
headlines. But this particular Bill, which took 18 years to update and pass, means
a lot to working parents and to a handful of sympathetic politicians on both
sides of the political aisle, including Democrats Barbara Mikulski, Tom Harkin,
Kirsten Gillibrand,  and Jeanne Shaheen,
and Republicans Lamar Alexander, Kelly Ayotte, and Richard Burr. 

Last Thursday,
the Senate arm of the 113th Congress finally passed S. 1086: Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 2014.

See how quickly we got back to
boring?

Here’s why this Bill is worth
paying attention to: The Childcare Block (the Bill’s nickname) supports $5.3
billion in funding for local, state-by-state childcare supplied to 1.5 million
children and families.

It also maintains
state and local health and safety standards, child abuse reporting
requirements, criminal background checks, and early learning and developmental
guidelines for childcare providers, and establishes a national toll-free
hotline, website, and directory for childcare providers. 

In some ways, the best news was
that the Childcare Block passed 97-1 on its final vote. Finally, our government
is agreeing to step in to regulate a public good that benefits everyone over
time: affordable, quality, safe, care for our littlest, most vulnerable
citizens, and their overwhelmed, overstressed working parents.

“Today will be a big victory for America’s
children, and I think it’s a great victory for the Senate,” Barbara Mikulski
told Politico after the Bill passed the Senate.
“This is the way the Senate should be.”

And I would add: how our country should be
when it comes to supporting childcare.

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