WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 14: Children from the KU Kids Deanwood Childcare Center complete a mural celebrating the launch of the Child Tax Credit on July 14, 2021 at the KU Kids Deanwood Childcare Center in Washington, DC. (Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images for Community Change)

(Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images for Community Change)

 Ohio Capital Journal

Meaghan Robbins doesn’t like when her husband, a member of the Army National Guard, is deployed for long stints. But with a toddler in need of child care, she can’t argue with the extra money.

“When he comes home and goes back to being a first responder, that changes,” the Marysville resident said.

Robbins doesn’t want to saddle her police officer husband with the overtime that would be necessary to keep her from working while also affording child care.

The cost of child care for the family, set to go up to $350 a month from the current $300 monthly, means two incomes are a must. But so, too, is the care and education their daughter receives.

“The things that she has been able to do or express because of lessons learned (at the daycare), I can’t provide that,” Robbins told the OCJ.

Addy Cary, mom to two young kids, had a family member to take care of her youngest until she was about eight months old. But once child care became necessary when they lived in Columbus, the religiously-affiliated daycare they found to meet their needs cost about the same as the family’s mortgage – more than $1,000 a month.

“And that was considered really cheap when I talked to other people about it,” Cary said.

Cary and her family moved to her hometown of Wooster to be closer to family, and the problem then became availability of care. So while she and her husband always wanted to have a family and considered it an important step in their lives, they realized they’d have to make unexpected decisions on how to care for their family.

“How are we going to get by when the cost of everything is going up so much, and we’re stuck just trying to think about how we’re going to pay for child care,” Cary and her family pondered.

Robbins works in HR and has a steady job at a family-oriented company now, but when she was laid off from a previous job, finding a job that paid enough to keep her youngest child in a quality learning environment while also allowing her the flexibility to take care of the child when she was home was a struggle she hadn’t anticipated before becoming a mother.

“If it works pay wise, it doesn’t work hours wise,” Robbins said. “If it works hours wise, it definitely doesn’t work pay wise.”

In the years before she had the job she currently has, she started working at her daughter’s daycare to partially offset the costs.

“I was pretty much working for free,” she said.

Campaign for Childcare

The frustration that came from wanting a quality education for their children but struggling with the ever-rising costs of it led Robbins and Cary to join a new effort, the Campaign for Childcare, putting pressure on federal leadership to support families and stem the flood of overwhelming costs families pay just to take care of children.

“I think it is very glossed over because having children, you’re seen as ‘you made this decision, now it’s all on you,’” Robbins said. “If we can make sure that people have access to daycare that is affordable, that is safe, we all get more out of it.”

The Campaign for Childcare identifies as a grassroots organization seeking to advocate for “large scale change in our childcare system to expand capacity, quality, accessibility and affordability of childcare nationwide,” according to their website.

 Children at day care. (Getty Images) 

CFC field organizer Katie Holler, who is also a Steubenville mom, said the group is looking into targeted spending on the federal level for child care, but it also hopes to bring the issue to the forefront as voters head to the polls this March and November in Ohio.

“We hope it’s a talking point everywhere, and I think it’s just a matter of voters knowing they can ask candidates about child care and feel confident in talking to the candidates,” Holler said.

According to Holler, local members of the group have already reached out to Ohio’s U.S. Sen. J.D. Vance to urge him to support supplemental funding for child care.

The national campaign also listed Ohio Rep. Dave Joyce as the target of campaign messaging, hoping to get congressional lawmakers on board with a request from President Joe Biden in late 2023 to use $16 billion in “domestic emergency spending” as part of the 2024 budget for “child care stabilization.”


For Robbins, helping families get the quality child care they need not only helps them, but brings about a more prepared workforce (current and future) and allows potential parents to feel more confident that they could bring a child into the country.

“The United States is not built for parents, at least it’s not built for you to be a successful parent,” she said. “We’re not at that place where we support parents.”

In Ohio, 40% of residents live in what’s considered a “child care desert,” according to think tank Policy Matters Ohio. That lack of facilities to keep up with area population combines with the fact that the child care workforce is falling, with a decrease of almost 36% between 2017 and 2022, Policy Matters researchers found.

As families face their own tightened budgets to make child care a possibility, Cary thinks the priorities of the country should be the same as any ordinary family’s.

“It seems like in a country that has the kind of budget that we do, it really seems like this would be a blip in the grand scheme of things,” Cary said.

That funding should extend not only to the families who need child care, but to those who provide it, the moms said.

Robbins saw firsthand the work that goes into providing child care, and the lack of support received from the workers who do it.

“I see teachers feeling forgotten, I see them dealing with attendance policies when they get sick,” Robbins said. “I see the struggle of not being able to afford health insurance or care for their own son or daughter.”

Pushing on the idea that the fight for child care should influence Ohioans at the polls, Cary said if society wants to continue to improve, the place to start is in early education of children, and quality sources of that education.

“We have to think of ourselves as a society when we go to the polls, not just ourselves,” Cary said. “I think if you care about families, you need to show it.”

Susan Tebben

Susan Tebben is an award-winning journalist with a decade of experience covering Ohio news, including courts and crime, Appalachian social issues, government, education, diversity and culture. She has worked for The Newark Advocate, The Glasgow (KY) Daily Times, The Athens Messenger, and WOUB Public Media. She has also had work featured on National Public Radio.


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