Child care and early learning offer critical developmental support to children, experts told a Children’s Week audience Wednesday, but they also provide vital infrastructure to the larger U.S. economy.

“To think about child care as infrastructure, really should not be that big of a leap when you see what we have just been through,” said Myra Jones-Taylor, chief policy officer at ZERO TO THREE. “It is very clear from the number of parents, and women in particular…who had to leave the workforce in the midst of the pandemic because they did not have child care. That is the equivalent of saying they did not have a road or a bridge to get to work, they did not have the transportation to get to work. If they do not have child care, they cannot get to work. We cannot leave our children unattended.”

Jones-Taylor joined Century Foundation senior fellow Julie Kashen in a panel moderated by First Focus on Children’s Averi Pakulis to discuss the potential impact of the Biden-Harris Administration’s plan to invest more than $400 billion in child care and universal pre-K.

Panelists discussed the role of the COVID-19 pandemic in focusing attention on the importance of child care, and how and to whom new funding should be delivered.

We have this history of not paying what these [child care] jobs are worth. The American Families Plan would do what’s needed,” Julie Kashen explained. “It would raise wages, it would make sure people are being paid much better than they currently are, and make sure there is access to professional development opportunities.” 

First Focus on Children’s fourth annual Children’s Week takes place as children factor into our national dialogue for the first time in decades. With kids as the subject of several proposals from Congress and the Biden-Harris Administration, First Focus took the opportunity to remind our country’s leaders that every issue — from immigration to taxes to health care — is a kids issue.

To see all Children’s Week events, spanning June 13 to June 19, visit this link.