Most Illinois families struggle to afford child care.
In Illinois, the rising cost of early childhood development services means that hundreds of thousands of working parents across the state are left without affordable care options for their children. Illinois ranks eighth in the nation for highest cost of infant care relative to median family income.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services defines the limit for child care affordability at 7% of total household earnings. In Illinois, a median-income family with an infant and child spends over 35% of household earnings on child care. As a result of racialized income inequality, those same child care costs would constitute over 60% of total earnings for Black families in Illinois.
The CCAP benefits cliff undermines economic upward mobility for Illinois families.
In Illinois, families enrolled in CCAP can become ineligible for essential child care benefits as a result of minor and often temporary increases in employment earnings. Known as the benefits cliff, the sudden revocation of child care assistance can have devastating financial consequences for working families.
A raise of just one dollar per hour can result in a five fold increase in longterm child care expenses. Oftentimes, the CCAP eligibility cliff deters parents from pursuing career advancement opportunities.
Illinois child care providers are among the lowest paid workers in the state.
Despite the overwhelming social and economic benefits that the child care system provides to our communities, the early childhood development workforce is chronically underpaid and experiences inequitable access to career growth opportunities.
Systemic wage suppression among child care workers is a direct legacy of chattel slavery in the United States. Under this system of coerced labor, an uncompensated workforce of Black women provided child care services to the families of white enslavers. The legacy of exploitative domestic labor forced upon Black women persisted long after the passage of the 13th amendment into the modern day. So entrenched was this racialized system of extractive childcare that domestic workers were categorically excluded from labor protections enacted under the New Deal.
Today Black women are overrepresented in the child care workforce and compensated with poverty wages. In Illinois, early childhood education providers are paid just a third of the salary earned by K-12 public school teachers. As a result of suppressed wages, over 50% of child care workers in Illinois are enrolled in public benefits.
Our vision for child care in Illinois and beyond.
The Workers Center for Racial Justice is leading a grassroots child care campaign to advance equity and opportunity for families and early childhood care professionals in Illinois and beyond.
We are mobilizing a powerful base of engaged parents and child care providers to fight for a universal child care system in which all parents have access to high quality affordable care, and the early childhood workforce is fairly compensated with equitable access to professional accreditation and career growth opportunities. In the upcoming legislative session, WCRJ is championing the following policy priorities:
Expand access to affordable child care for Illinois families.
WCRJ will champion a state level policy to raise the eligibility threshold for Illinois’ Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) and support economic mobility for working families by eliminating the child care benefit cliff.
Pilot a model of child care to meet the needs of working families.
WCRJ will advocate for legislation to pilot a child care program with supportive services and flexible operating hours to accommodate parents who work outside of traditional business hours.
Champion equitable working conditions for child care workers.
WCRJ will fight to improve wages and benefits for early childhood professionals and promote racially equitable access to accreditation and career advancement opportunities.
Demand robust federal investment in the national child care system.
WCRJ will mobilize our grassroots base to demand that Illinois’ congressional delegation prioritize $400 billion in investment in early childhood care.