StoryWard 2Angelique Speight, Child Care Business Owner

February 12, 2020

“Small businesses are the backbone of the U.S. economy.” It’s a common refrain touted by politicians, news outlets and others. So why don’t I, the owner of a family child care business, feel a sense of pride and recognition when I hear it?

I run a home-based child care facility in DC called Ms. P’s Child and Family Service. As the owner of a small business providing care for our youngest residents and future leaders, I make it possible for countless parents to go to work every day confident that their children are safe, learning and loved. I provide an invaluable service, I create jobs, and I pay taxes. I fuel the economy.

Though my work is important, it is undervalued

The average salary for a family child care provider is somewhere between $10 to $17 per hour. This is unsustainable for early-learning teachers, who often acquire loans when obtaining the advanced degrees needed to be a qualified teacher. Some of my staff members work multiple jobs to make ends meet. It’s not fair, especially considering these are skilled positions that require advanced schooling.

For small businesses in the child care industry, the operational costs leave little to no profit, though our services fulfill essential needs. It can be challenging to keep up with national efforts to improve safety and quality. Though I wholeheartedly support these efforts, my balance sheet reminds me of the true cost of meeting ever-changing and increasingly stringent regulatory standards.

With child care subsidies I can provide quality care to low-income families

Centers like mine, which rely on government subsidies to operate, are constantly at risk of losing that funding and shutting our doors because there is little or no support to help us meet new quality standards. I use these subsidies so I can provide quality care to low-income families who might not otherwise be able to afford child care, and so I can make sure I have enough money coming into the center to cover daily costs. If my center falls short of new regulations that I don’t have the resources to meet, then I lose that money and the ability to provide jobs, care, or security to my clients and workers.

Child care centers, especially small ones like mine, need support to make sure we can comply with regulatory changes while providing excellent care to children. What will it take for the DC government and the private sector to recognize, understand and value the broad impact of our work as early educators and child care providers in driving the economy? At workplaces across this city and beyond, employees are able to go to work because they’re satisfied and secure with their child care decisions. What’s more, the workforce of the future is now in our child care centers, acquiring the skills they’ll need later to succeed in school and the workplace.

I provide the safety and freedom for parents to work and make a living for their families

If small businesses are the backbone of the economy, then home-based care centers like mine are the central nervous system that connects everything and makes it all possible. Not only do I provide skilled jobs in the community, but I also provide the safety and freedom for parents to work and make a living for their families. The very least the city owes to those providing care to our next generation is the same financial security afforded to other workers, so that our employees can likewise build careers that provide for their own families’ needs.

Angelique Speight is a small business owner in Ward 2.

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