Home Legislation would increase access of short-term child care for mothers, families
Health, Politics, US & World

Legislation would increase access of short-term child care for mothers, families

Rebecca Barnabi
(© VadimGuzhva – stock.adobe.com)

Congresswoman Jennifer McClellan convened a roundtable Monday morning with advocates, community leaders, child care providers and local parents to discuss the state of maternal and infant health in Virginia.

McClellan, who represents Virginia’s District 4, hosted the discussion to address the challenges that exacerbate the crises. She highlighted her Child Care Assistance for Maternal Health Act, bipartisan legislation to increase access to short-term child care for mothers and families during the pregnancy, birth and postpartum period.

The United States has the highest maternal mortality rate of any high-income country in the world. In 2021, the maternal mortality rate was nearly 33 deaths per 100,000 live births, and Black women were more than three times more likely to die during childbirth than white women. According to the 2023 March Of Dimes Report Card, the U.S. maintained a D+ preterm birth grade for the second year in a row. Virginia received a C preterm birth grade, and several localities in Virginia’s District 4 face staggeringly high rates of preterm birth, including Richmond, which received an F.

According to a new report by the United Way of the National Capital Area, Virginia is the 9th most expensive state in the country for child care. The findings were reaffirmed by the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission, which found that child care is unaffordable for the vast majority of Virginia families with young children.

“The pregnancy, birth and postpartum period should be joyous, but we know it can also be extremely mentally and physically taxing. As one of the 6.8 percent of members of Congress who is a mother to young children, I have firsthand understanding of the dire lack of available child care,” McClellan said. “My bill would increase access to crucial short-term child care support during pregnancy, childbirth, and the postpartum period. I am grateful to have the endorsement of a wide array of organizations, including March of Dimes, the Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs, Bipartisan Policy Center Action, the First Five Years Fund, the Maternal Mental Health Leadership Alliance, Mom Congress, the Policy Center for Maternal Mental Health, and Zero to Three.”

McClellan was joined this morning by local parents and organizations who shared their maternal health and child care stories. The speakers included Heather Farber-Director of Major Gifts for the United Way of Greater Richmond and Petersburg, David Young-Executive Director of the FRIENDS Association for Children, Kalie Owen-Social Worker at the VCU Health OB Motivate Clinic, Kenda Sutton-Founder and Executive Director of Birth in Color RVA, Ashle Logan-Mom with Birth in Color RVA, LaShondra Jones Ervin-Mom with Birth in Color RVA, Stacey Brayboy-Senior Vice President for Public Policy and Government Affairs at March of Dimes, Judy Miller-Mom with March of Dimes, Juanterria Pope-Browne-Founder and Director of Kidz with Goals Unlimited, Courtney Curtis-Mom with Kidz With Goals Unlimited, Natasha Aldridge with Mom Congress and Kathleen Eastman with the YWCA.

McClellan introduced the Child Care Assistance for Maternal Health Act in her first year in Congress. The legislation:

  • Establishes a federal grant program to support mothers and families during pregnancy, childbirth, and the postpartum period by increasing access to short-term child care.

  • Prioritizes grant applicants that provide families with assistance finding a long-term child care option, serve areas with high rates of maternal mortality and poverty, and serve maternity care target areas.

  • Prioritizes support for vulnerable populations, including low-income families, families experiencing homelessness, single-parent households, and families with children with disabilities or special health care needs.

  • Requires the Secretary of Health and Human Services to identify successful activities for improving maternal health outcomes and provide reports to Congress.

As a member of the Black Maternal Health Caucus, the Mamas Caucus and the Bipartisan Congressional Pre-K and Child Care Caucus, McClellan remains committed to ensuring mothers and children everywhere have the support and resources they need to thrive.

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.