In The News: Single Moms, Unemployment And Day Care

*Repost from WGBH News


shanesha mugshot

In the picture Shanesha Taylor is staring straight into the camera with tears streaming down her cheeks. It’s her mug shot, taken after the Arizona single mother was arrested for leaving her children in a locked car with the windows slightly cracked.

Horrible as that sounds it’s only part of the story. As Shanesha explained to the arresting officer she had no one to watch her kids while she interviewed for a job. The 35-year-old mother is homeless; she risked leaving her children for a short time for the chance to get work.

Shanesha’s 2-year-old and 6-month-old were placed in protective services and she was roundly criticized for endangering them. But, even her harshest critics recognized that she was between a rock and a hard place. Millions of parents know first hand the struggle to find childcare.

And if they can find it, many parents can’t afford it. Massachusetts parents know this all too well. The organization, ChildCare Aware of America recently reported that here in Massachusetts, what is known as ‘center based childcare,’ is the most expensive in the country. At $16,430 for an infant’s yearly child care, a poor family of three would have to pay 86 percent of their income to put their kids in a day care center full time. The organization’s top official says the cost of childcare is “exceeding the cost of housing, college tuition, or even food.”

And cost is not just an issue for poor and working class parents. Middle class and even upper middle class parents –especially those in urban areas—are squeezed, too. Several well off couples interviewed by The New York Times last year, said childcare costs ate up a huge chunk of their double incomes. The story called, “Crushed by the Cost of Child Care,” cited couples considering having one parent stop working to care for the children at home.

Shanesha Taylor didn’t have that choice—and maybe that’s why her story drew such attention and sympathy. A local church took her in after her release from jail. Another single mother from New Jersey, Amanda Bishop, raised more than $60,000 to help Shanesha to pay bail, legal fees and to help care for her children.

Bishop notes,  “It’s not like Shanesha was out drinking and partying. She was trying to get herself out of the rut that she was in.” Even the Arizona police spokesperson acknowledged, “This is a sad situation all around… she needed the job.”

Still many judge her a bad mother, insisting she could have found another way to care for the kids. Too late now. And Shenesha still faces two felony charges of child abuse. I am haunted by her tear stained face, and saddened by the cruel irony that she was interviewing at an insurance company, hoping it would ensure her children’s future.

Callie Crossley is the host of Under the Radar with Callie Crossley

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