Here are some "Trivial Pursuit" questions for my fellow Utahns. Number one, what percentage of Utah's welfare recipients are single parents? (Answer: 96 percent.) How many Utah women between the ages of 20 and 44 are in the labor force? (Answer: 70 percent.) How many slots are there for Utah children with licensed family or center child care? (Answer: 29,654.) How many Utah children need child care in Utah? (Answer: 149,412 children between the ages of 0-13 have working parents and no relatives to provide care.)
There are some not so trivial questions as well - questions that concern me a great deal. How do Utah's latchkey children manage from day to day? What temptations and dangers do they face? How do we expect families with limited incomes - whether they are headed by two parents or one - to do what is best for their children without adequate choices?I am convinced that parents today need and deserve choices. While I still wholeheartedly believe that a full-time parent is the best choice a family could make, circumstances often prevent it. As hard as we may wish, child care outside of the home is still a reality for thousands of Utah families. Our national policy dilemma is how to face up to this reality and deal with it responsibly.
I believe there is a good way to do this. Along with Congresswoman Nancy Johnson, I have reintroduced the "Child Care Services Improvement Act" (known as the Hatch-Johnson bill). We have based our proposal on several key principles.
First, in order to provide parents with greater choices, the Hatch-Johnson bill provides both a refundable tax credit for families with young children - which would apply regardless of whether or not both parents work - and a workable block grant program that would enable states to increase the availability and variety of child-care options.
The block grant would also require the involvement of the local community. It is important that communities be able to address their specific child-care needs and shortages in the way that reflects their individual economic conditions, values, and preferences. The federal government would not operate these programs.
Our bill would also break down many barriers to involvement by the business sector, such as liability risks and start-up costs, and would provide tax simplification and a loan fund to assist family-based child-care providers.
In addition to the Hatch-Johnson bill, I am also the number one cosponsor of President Bush's tax credit proposal and of the new "Act for Better Child Care" or "ABC Bill."
While I believe the Hatch-Johnson bill would be the most effective legislation because it combines a tax credit for families with a modest program to increase the child-care choices and incentives for the private sector, I believe these other ideas have merit as well.
considered these views and opinions very carefully. I appreciate the strength of conviction of those who disagree with me on this issue.
But the "ABC Bill" has been changed substantially from last year's version - which, by the way, I spoke against at every opportunity. It is a new bill that reflects a greater understanding by its sponsors that child care cannot be micromanaged from Washington, D.C., and that we cannot undercut family relationships with the ridiculous licensing of grandmothers. It incorporates religious institutions into the planning and policy-making structure and allows them to receive grants to provide child-care services. By cosponsoring the "ABC Bill," I was able to obtain these and other important changes.
In its more streamlined form, the "ABC Bill" seeks to provide direct assistance to low-income families who need child care and whose only alternatives are welfare or leaving children alone. I will admit that I am not against helping people in this situation. I was appalled to learn that 20,000 children under the age of 3 are left unattended for some part of the work day. And, frankly, I would rather spend the money on child care than risk a latchkey child's experimentation with drugs or mourn a child's accidental death caused by simple curiosity.
I do not believe the "ABC Bill" is perfect. For example, I do not believe we should have mandatory federal standards for child-care providers. Federal regulators have no way of knowing the effect of their actions in St. George, Provo or Logan. I will work vigorously to ensure that states retain the power to set their own standards for child care. It is essential that we work to make the "ABC Bill" the best bill we can since it is most likely that bill which will be debated in Congress.
We really cannot ignore reality any longer. We may wish that every child could be in an "Ozzie and Harriet" family. But that family is no longer typical in our society. For the well-being of our children, and the peace of mind of parents, we must address the child-care issue.