Working Parenthood: The Campaign Issue.
I understand why the Iraq War attracts so much attention on the presidential campaign trail. But why doesn’t caregiving play a bigger role in the presidential debate?
Anyone who has kids knows that child care is expensive—in fact, it is one of the biggest expenses in a family’s household budget, often second only to housing payments. Today the average two-parent family with two children under age 5 spends 11% of their budget on child care, up from only 1% in 1960, according to Dēmos: A Network for Ideas & Action, which is a non-partisan public policy research and advocacy organization. Eldercare is another huge financial burden, as well as an enormous time suck. . While Cindy Carrillo, the founder and CEO of Work Options Group, isn’t sure what role government should play in the overseeing caregiving, she agrees it is an important topic that needs more discussion. “I’m surprised it has taken this long to hit” the political spectrum, says Carrillo, whose company provides back-up emergency care to more than 120 corporate clients.
As far as I can tell, Sen. Hillary Clinton is leading the charge among the presidential candidates on the caregiving front—on Oct. 16, she unveiled an agenda to help parents juggle work and family demands. Topping Clinton’s list are an extended paid family leave program, broader childcare options, as well as telecommuting initiatives.
Clinton’s goal is for all states to implement a paid family leave program by the year 2016, covering 13 million additional workers across the country. In addition, she is calling for a guarantee that every American worker gets seven days of paid sick leave to help them deal with a health crisis faced by themselves or their children. Clinton’s agenda includes $1 billion per year in grants to encourage innovative paid family leave programs at the state level. "Too many Americans feel trapped between being a good parent and being a good worker," Clinton says. "It's about time we stopped just talking about family values and started pursuing policies that truly value families.”
Sen. Christopher Dodd should definitely get some credit for making caregiving part of the American vernacular. He helped sponsor the 1993 Family Medical Leave Act, which requires employers with 50 or more employees to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a newborn or adopted child, or to care for a seriously ill family member. Dodd repeatedly mentions this in appearances and on his website although a quick look at the “Issues” portion of his website didn’t yield much more in terms of policy initiatives on caregiving. And perhaps I’m not looking hard enough, but I didn’t see caregiving agendas on the websites of Sen. Barack Obama or Sen. John Edwards If these and other presidential hopeful truly care about getting the votes of working families, they need to step up to the plate. While Iraq may some day fade from the national agenda, caring for our kids and our parents is an ever-present struggle.