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Short-term child care access a priority of legislation to protect maternal health

Rebecca Barnabi
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The Child Care Assistance for Maternal Health Act would increase short-term child care access for mothers and their families during pregnancy, birth and the postpartum period.

H.R. 5581 was introduced last month by U.S. Reps. Jennifer McClellan of Virginia and Nancy Mace of South Carolina.

In the United States, the maternal mortality rate is nearly three times higher than other high-income countries in the world, and disproportionately impacts Black and Brown women who experience maternal morbidity at rates nearly three times higher than white women. Pregnancy-related deaths are largely preventable and often result from mental health conditions associated with pregnancy, childbirth and the postpartum period.

“The maternal mortality crisis and the child care crisis disproportionately impact Black, low-income, and single-parent families, and it is past time we take action on these pressing issues,” McClellan said. “Before coming to Congress, I served in the state legislature for nearly 18 years and was the first member of the Virginia House of Delegates to become pregnant and give birth while in office. Five years later, I almost died while giving birth to my daughter. My experiences as a working mother to two young children and a Black mother who experienced pregnancy-related complications give me a deep understanding of the challenges families face throughout pregnancy, childbirth, and the postpartum period. Today, I am proud to introduce the bipartisan Child Care Assistance for Maternal Health Act with Congresswoman Mace, a fellow mother in Congress, to take historic action to address these intersectional crises.”

Mace said nurturing mothers and empowering families should be at the forefront of American society’s values.

“By supporting increased access to short-term child care during pregnancy, birth and the postpartum period, we are not only ensuring the well-being of mothers but also fostering a stronger foundation for our future generations. We are committed to providing the support and resources necessary for mothers to thrive as they embark on the incredible journey of motherhood,” Mace said.

The Child Care Assistance for Maternal Health Act:

  • 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 to find a long-term childcare option, serve areas with higher 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 to improve maternal health outcomes and provide reports to Congress.

McClellan is a member of the Bipartisan Congressional Pre-K and Child Care Caucus and Mace is a co-chair of the Congressional Bipartisan Affordable Child Care Caucus.

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.