Childcare Hasn’t Gained Much Traction with Funders. Who's Trying to Change That?

Friday, September 29, 2017

Childcare Hasn’t Gained Much Traction with Funders. Who's Trying to Change That?

Childcare is out of reach for working families, but few funders have stepped in to fill the gap.

In 2015, the Economic Policy Institute, a progressive-leaning think tank, found that in 33 states and the District of Columbia, infant care costs more on average than in-state tuition at a public university. Access to affordable childcare would put struggling families on surer financial footing. Childcare seems like a natural interest for funders that care either about early childhood education or the struggles of working parents, but so far, it hasn’t emerged a major priority for grantmakers. 

The Ms. Foundation wants to change that. “We know that because of systemic issues around racism and sexism, sectors like the childcare sector have been both underfunded and undervalued,” said Aleyamma Mathew, director of the women's economic justice program at the foundation. This intermediary funding group focuses on reaching women of color and low-income women through investment in grassroots organizations. It got serious about childcare about five years ago, and has released a study on what it's learned.

Childcare is seen as a woman’s responsibility within families, Mathew said. “So the foundation wanted to really lift up this issue and encourage philanthropic allies to invest in this and see it as a key component in advancing women’s economic security.”

Mathew sees child-focused education funders and parent-focused worker and economic equality funders as allies. Early education advocates may be natural partners, but a look at the community- and state-level organizations with which Ms. partnered leaned heavily toward worker and parent advocate groups, like the Olé Education Fund in New Mexico and Parent Voices Oakland in California. Both focus on organizing working parents to push for childcare legislation for things like more generous subsidies...

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