A local Chicago theater partnered with history group earlier this month to put the spotlight on the importance of quality, affordable childcare.
“The Working Women’s History Project is about education,” said committee member Jackie Kirely. “We consider it our mission to collect and tell the story of Chicago women.”
In 2013, the Working Women’s History Project created the Committee on Child Care in Chicago, which is committed to learning about and improving the availability and quality of child care afforded to women.
“Over the past three years, our mission has broadened, from collecting stories on individual women to focusing on women in childcare,” she said. “We interviewed 35 women, with the goal of creating a documentary that takes a closer look at child care.”
The Lookingglass Theater used the information gained from the documentary, turning it into a drama directed by Tracy Walsh, starring Wendy Mateo and Ericka Radcliff.
Handle with Care shows the various scenarios children and parents face when it comes to childcare.
“As a parent myself, I was inspired by the deep need of the parents to know that their children were being well cared for,” Walsh said. “I was inspired by the dedication and knowledge of the childcare providers and the shortfall of funding to help fill in the gaps for people who are expected to earn a living but then pay the substantial fees for childcare.”
Walsh said she if there were one message the play could convey, it would be: our country needs to understand the importance of providing quality and affordable child care to working people.
“There need to be places where working-class people can afford to leave their children safely and well cared for,” she said.
The panel portion of the event focused on obstacles parents face when it comes to child care. The panel consisted of Betty Buckman, founder of Little Leaders of Tomorrow Day Care Center; Dr. Lillian Perez, a senior adviser at the Ounce of Prevention Fund; and John Lloyd, a parent of a child at Little Leaders.
“I think parents are confused on how to bring their children up,” Buckman said. “Parents are to busy being told what not to do for their children but are never told what they should be doing. As a result, children are controlling their parents.”
Buckman went on to stress how important it is for parents to receive proper education on how to raise and teach their kids.
“Education on how parents should raise their children is extremely important,” she said. “Parents are the first teachers children come in contact with.”
Other obstacles parents face with child care is finding an affordable day care that is close to home and has open slots.
“There are many obstacles faced by parents when trying to find childcare, one of the biggest things is cost, alongside location and availability,” Lloyd said. “I trust Little Leaders, and if it came to a point where I couldn’t afford it, I would have to move my kids.”
One audience member raised the idea of Chicago Public Schools taking the initiative to start parenting classes for students, giving young people the knowledge needed to raise children well before it happens.
“I was sitting here thinking to myself, I am glad I could afford quality child care for my daughter,” said Liza Holzer, a committee member at Third Unitarian Church.
“I wonder what programs are out there available for young adults when it comes to childcare. I don’t know if the burden should be placed on high schools. It’s hard enough to educate these young adults.”
Perez said a “bridge needs to be built between parents and education on child care.” A lot of parents in today’s society don’t have higher education, which can lead to lack of self-esteem when raising a child.
“City colleges and churches need to be willing to provide workshops and outreach for parents,” she said. “Resources are available even with the current budget issues. I can tell you the hardest thing for these providers is getting parents to comply.”
One challenge: The number of young adults and teenagers becoming parents.
“Children are having babies and can barely raise their child because they still need to be raised,” Buckman said.