By Daniela Cruz

At a very young age, we’re told we have a voice that can be used to change the world around us, but we don’t always know when or how that’s supposed to be done.  Fortunately, R&R Day in the Capitol gave me the opportunity to use my voice, and the empowerment I felt was beyond words.

The purpose of this day was to gather staff from Resource & Referral agencies, like YMCA Childcare Resource Service, across California and give them the opportunity to meet with legislators in Sacramento to discuss the needs of families and the child care community. Just hearing the word “legislators” put the pressure on, but thinking about our parents and providers really gave me the courage I needed to speak for them.  

As a Resource and Referral Advisor, I spend the majority of my time speaking to parents and providers. and I hear first-hand what they experience on a daily basis. You hear so many different situations; it becomes difficult to hear that struggling parents face barriers that prevent them from receiving child care. Being able to share these experiences with legislators really validates and gives our parents and providers the place and respect they deserve in our county.

After arriving in Sacramento, we had the opportunity to meet with different R&R Staff employees, and it was interesting to see we were the only Resource and Referral Agency in San Diego. We broke into our teams and set off to meet with Assemblymembers Lorena Gonzalez and Dr. Shirley Weber, and Senator Ben Hueso. We were fortunate to meet with them and not their staff members.

I was definitely nervous and scared I would say the wrong thing, but eventually I got it together and dove in. After breaking the ice, the words floated right out and the meeting went by extremely fast. It was good to see how knowledgeable they were in regards to childcare in our state. We would share certain issues with them, and they already seemed to know the areas in child care that needed their focus. To me, this demonstrated their interest and they were well aware of the necessity our community has for child care and financial assistance.

Aside from statistics, budgets and facts, it was meaningful to talk about personal experiences that show why it’s so important to invest in child care. When reviewing our talking points in preparation for our meetings, it was interesting to see the number of family child care homes has declined by 17% in San Diego County. When a family child care home closes its doors, it impacts the economic stability of a family and the development of young children.

Unfortunately, hearing this was no surprise to me. I shared with all legislators the ongoing struggles my family and I faced after my mom opened her own family child care home almost 20 years ago. We had really good moments, but we also had bad ones. Each vacancy in her childcare meant a dent in our income and there were moments where she only had 2 children enrolled. Our financial struggle was extremely difficult and put us in a situation where my mom often questioned if opening up her own family child care home was a good idea. So, I understand why the number of family child care homes is declining, and being able to share that personal struggle with legislators was important. There are so many parents in need of childcare, but there are also many providers in need of children and I made sure to emphasize the importance of investing in our providers, as well.

Overall, this experience was so rewarding and empowering. I felt a sense of pride being part of such an amazing community where we truly invest in our children and form part of an organization that puts passion into everything they do. The work we do and the struggles we face aren’t always visible to our legislators, which is why it was so meaningful to shine a light on YMCA CRS. This is an opportunity everyone should take advantage of because it gives more meaning to what you do every day, and motivates you to continue working in this field. If given the chance, I’d do this again.