Child care worker healthcare disparities

May 29, 2014

activism / culture / politics

Child care is a rough industry to work in. Most centers (at least in Georgia, where I live) are not funded by the state, so there are no benefits. Many centers treat their employees badly. Classrooms and facilities don’t have good supplies. On top of that, the pay is not good; many employees work multiple jobs and still remain poor. 1

It’s the benefits, and specifically healthcare, that I want to examine at the moment. Obamacare, of course, was intended to cover gaps for many working people who don’t currently have healthcare, either by persuading their employeers to give it to them or by making it affordable on an individual basis. Those too poor for either of these would hopefully instead benefit from Medicaid expansion, giving them coverage in that system.


Atlanta (and the area we refer to as Inside The Perimeter, or inside Interstate 285) is quite a liberal region, politically and otherwise. Democrats represent us in state and national Congress. It’s hard to imagine a polling location that didn’t vote for Obama twice. And so on. But once you get out of Atlanta into the suburbs and the rest of the state, Georgia is a very conservative state. There are bills allowing people to bring guns into schools, churches, and probably wherever else people want them.

But more importantly to this issue, Georgia lawmakers recently passed a bill that strips even the Governor of the right to expand Medicaid. Not that he would anyway, as his office helped craft the bill, but it puts more barriers in front of any future expansion. Hundreds of thousands of people will remain without coverage.

Many child care workers will likely be in this pool of people without coverage. They don’t make much; generally they don’t make enough to afford Obamacare, but most do make too much for Medicaid at its current threshold.

Where they are screwed

While I follow Georgia politics in general, and am supportive of progressive efforts here like Moral Mondays, there’s a situation that brought this disparity into clear focus for me. Some of the employees of a daycare my daughter previously attended were injured a few weeks ago when a deck they were standing on collapsed. They sustained burns, broken bones, and so on, and have had significant hospital time (in Atlanta’s public hospital for the poor).

When I heard about this, beyond the immediate question of whether they were going to be okay, my first thought was just how screwed these wonderful people would be. They’d be out of work, with massive hospital bills and no healthcare of their own to pay for it. You can read about some efforts some of the parents have made to help them, but then I started thinking about just how systemic an issue this is. Any child care employee is in the same boat, when they have a medical crisis of any kind.

What might be possible

In Atlanta, there’s a nonprofit called The Giving Kitchen, which exists to help members of the restaurant community when they have medical crises, as many of them are in a similar boat. 2 I’ve been wondering if there might be an opportunity for a similar thing for child care workers.

What if we built a nonprofit that existed to provide assistance to these types of situations? Various funding opportunities might exist, but there’s such a personal relationship between a parent and the people who take care of his or her children that it’s hard to imagine a parent who wouldn’t be willing to help.

I can’t do much about Georgia’s current political climate, and I can’t do much about the employment conditions that child care workers face. But I’m wondering if together we might be able to offer a small piece of help when these lovely people are most vulnerable.

Especially on a post like this, I’d love to hear feedback via email or Twitter. It’s a rough, early stage idea with many technological and financial challenges, and I’m curious if it might have any potential.

  1. A quick Google search turned up this article from Chicago, leading me to think it’s probably not isolated to Georgia, regardless of the political differences between the two states. 
  2. Apparently they came into existence because an Atlanta chef got cancer, and the restaurant community in the city came around him to raise $300,000 for his chemotherapy. Now, there’s a restaurant called Staplehouse that is close to opening, and it will exist to fund the nonprofit.