In the 1970’s, as increasingly more women entered the workforce, affordable quality child care was scarce. Activist parents took the initiative to organize and push for change. In the San Francisco Bay Area, parents like Patty Siegel and Arlyce Currie worked with other parents to establish organizations such as the Child Care Switchboard and BANANAS - organizations specifically designed to refer parents to child care resources. Soon, similar organizations sprouted across the state. These founding agencies took their cause to Sacramento and successfully advocated for state funding for resource and referral agencies. Thanks to those efforts, every California county is served by a local resource and referral agency that parents can contact for child care information.
Despite more than 20 years of solid advocacy work and many major victories for child care, overall progress toward meeting parents’ needs has been very limited. Notably missing from child care advocacy efforts at every level are parents themselves. Their busy schedules and often harried lives leave little room or energy for issues beyond day-to-day work and family life. Their absence in efforts to improve and expand child care resources leaves a notable void. No one speaks more convincingly for their children’s needs than parents themselves. Understanding this, the Network began to explore if and how R&R agencies could help build a stronger, more effective parent voice for child care in their communities.
In 1994, Patty Siegel, now Executive Director of the California Child Care Resource and Referral Network, at the request of the Jenifer Altman Foundation, convened a group of California child care advocates to evaluate and discuss the current state of child care. They all agreed that one of the greatest needs was to bring back the parent voice to the child care movement. In July 1994, The Jenifer Altman Foundation generously responded with an offer of seed funding to the Network to develop a project to organize parents–Parent Voices.
Today, Parent Voices has chapters in seventeen counties, all building momentum with the belief that it is the parents who must ignite and fuel the process of change. To strengthen our advocacy, we, as parents, conduct trainings on strategic organizing, leadership development, advocacy skills, and relevant issues; send out policy updates and calls to action; build relationships with local and state elected officials as well as coalition partners; convene local parents to build a support network as well as to take collective action; and finally, we constantly share resources, ideas and challenges to weave together strong voices both locally as well as statewide to advance towards a more quality, affordable and accessible child care system!