What Would it Take to Get a Real Child Care Conversation in this Country?

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What Would it Take to Get a Real Child Care Conversation in this Country?

One final thought about Mitt Romney and the war on most moms: In the same video clip referenced below, Romney also brags about increasing spending on child care assistance to help these moms of 2-year-olds go back to work. But we know that states have been cutting childcare assistance, thousands of families have lost services or been placed on waitlists, and Romney's own budget proposals, by squeezing the federal domestic funds that are the major source of childcare subsidies, would further worsen the problem.

And I'm somehow skeptical that expanding access to childcare for working families is going to play a prominent (or any) role in Romney's agenda--no matter how much he may want low-income moms to experience the "dignity of work." Yet, as mind-boggling and frustrating as this ridiculous debate over the past week has been, if it yields just a little bit, just a smidge, of real national attention and better conversation about the challenges facing "working families" (whether both or either parents work), childcare, and how we as a society (not just government and policy) do and do not support families and kids, that would be completely worthwhile. I realize that's probably a completely insane hope, but there's something about a beautiful spring morning in D.C. that can make you think the craziest things are possible.

It's worth remembering, of course, that, during the Nixon administration, the United States came thisclose to having a national childcare policy that would have given working families access to high-quality, developmental childcare. In the late 1960s, Nixon and his administration supported an expanded federal role in childcare, citing both the educational needs of young children and a growing demand from working mothers. But by 1971, when Congress passed the Comprehensive Child Development Act, Nixon, eager to solidify connections with conservative Christian voters who had contributed to his 1968 victory, vetoed it. Nixon's veto message, written by Pat Buchanan, bemoaned the "family-weakening implications" of a "communal approach to child-rearing," setting a tone that continues--despite the evidence--to characterize debate about childcare and the family today, as can be seen in this week's hullabaloo over Ann Romney and working moms.