State Capitol Exhibit Focuses on History of Child Care and Development in California
SACRAMENTO – Today, Senator Liz Figueroa (D-Fremont), chair of the Legislative Women’s Caucus, announced the opening of the Women’s History Month Exhibit, A Century of Child Care and Development in California, in the second floor Rotunda of the California State Capitol.
“This month we celebrate women’s history, and the economic, social, and political achievements of women,” said Figueroa. “The Women’s Caucus is pleased to sponsor this exhibit, which honors programs that have enhanced the development and care of children while also providing vital support to working families in California.”
The changing discussion surrounding child care and childhood development is an example of the influence women in the legislature have had on policy decisions. After nearly a century in the California Legislature women have not yet reached parity, but the presence of women in California’s government has significantly shaped the policies and programs that impact the lives of women and their families.
In the early 20th century child care programs were viewed as charity, rescuing children of single mothers whose survival depended on their ability to work. The increased need for women in the workforce during World War II ushered in a national child care program, but the federal funding for the programs ended with the end of the war. The efforts of women workers and child care advocates led California to dedicate $3.5 million to keep the centers open. Today, in response to recent studies showing the positive impacts of early childhood education on brain development, the discussion has shifted again to an examination of options like universal preschool.
“Clearly the policy debate surrounding the care of children has changed over the years but one thing has remained constant -- child care is seen as primarily a woman’s issue,” said Figueroa. “We must keep in mind that the importance of early childhood education and the role it plays in the long-term development of children impacts the future of everyone in California.”
Ongoing shortages of quality child care and a lack of adequate funding for programs creates challenges for both families and providers. The Legislative Women’s Caucus has been essential in securing funding for child care programs. In 2002-03, the Caucus was successful in negotiating with the Governor and ensuring a budget that included no elimination of services to state subsidized child care programs. In the 2003-04 budget, the Caucus was able to avoid outright elimination of Stage 3 child care subsidies by implementing smaller scale reductions. This year, in the face of continued budget shortages, the Caucus will again look for creative ways to support child care and development programs.
Senator Figueroa encourages visitors to come to the Capitol during March to view the Women’s History Month exhibit and pay tribute to these important programs. This exhibit was designed by Fern Tiger Associates, with support from Paul Miller and Kidango, the Child Care Resource and Referral Network, Kaiser Permanente, Johnson and Johnson, and Providian.