Economic Opportunity, Health and Education

Child Care Workers Emphasize Need for Wages, Benefits, and Respect

by WREN Staff on Jul 15, 2021

In a panel presentation, Dr. Amanda McDougald Scott presented findings from her research about the everyday lives of child care workers. The panel featured child care workers from around the state including Dellarekus Kelly “Mr.D” (he/his), Maria Johnson (she/her), Lynn Pollard (She/her), Alison Lister (she/her), Felicia O’Neal (she/her), Sarita Smith (she/her), Meredith Burton (she/her).

Each panelist emphasized the need for wages, benefits, and respect. Sarita Smith, an in-home child care provider shared that the cost of doing business can often outpace what individual providers can give. “We have to pay ourselves, liability insurance, and the cost of upkeeping our homes, food, materials. It costs a lot. And when you’re talking about taking that from tuition, I barely make anything. Without my husband’s support, I wouldn’t be able to do this,” she said.

Child care professionals provide meaningful interpersonal interactions, early education in math/science/reading, and life skills. Their work is essential to both the foundational learning of every child, yet they are underpaid and under-respected.  Meredith, a child development center director said, “We need to garner respect for the field and the people who work at all levels.”

Felicia and several other panelists discussed the high cost of insurance because many child care workers do not receive benefits from their employers.

Medicaid expansion is important because it would help cover child care workers in a household in which there are children.  However, ALL child care professionals should have access to child care—whether or not they have children–which is why Medicaid expansion should also include child care workers even in households with no children.  Please ask for an inclusive Medicaid expansion in SC so that our essential child care workers may have access to health care.

South Carolina child care providers’ median annual salary of $19,480 does not qualify for Medicaid in a non-expansion state, but would qualify for Medicaid in an expansion state if the child care worker has a two-or-more-person household*.  The maximum annual income for SC Medicaid eligibility is $11,671 (67% FPL) for single parents of one child**   Single child care workers with no children would need Medicaid expansion to be at 200% FPL to qualify, which is $25,760***.

We all have the power to make change and improve working conditions for child care professionals. One step is to contact your legislator and ask them to expand Medicaid.  Help us provide quality and affordable healthcare to the people who need it most. Take action today.


View the presentation


*(Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, 2020a; Economic Policy Institute, 2019; Health Reform: Beyond the Basics, 2019; U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, 2019b)

**(Kaiser Family Foundation, 2021b; U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, 2021), and standard Medicaid expansion would raise that eligibility to 138% FPL, which would be $24,040 for a single parent with one child (Kaiser Family Foundation, 2021b; U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, 2021).

***(U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, 2021).

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