Women’s Funds and Foundations at the Leading Edge of Bold Childcare Policy

We know that your work across the globe combines the power of philanthropy and advocacy to catalyze lasting change for women and their families. Now, more than ever, your unique role is needed to help reimagine childcare and caregiving. 

At the height of lockdowns in April 2020, 91 percent of students worldwide were shut out of their classrooms. The World Bank and the International Finance Corporation agreed that policy responses that do not support caregiving are unlikely to restore economies to their former capacities any time soon. While countries have differed in their response, one thing is clear: childcare is an essential workforce support that crosses across every aspect of our lives, making it not just a family issue but a core economic issue for workers and employers. 

Yet despite the exponential benefits adequate childcare provides to society and the economy, decades of underinvestment have exposed the fragility of the market-based child care industry — and the pandemic may have dealt the final blow. To solve our child care crisis, we need an expansive approach that fundamentally shifts the narrative about child care from a privilege for few to a public good for all. 

Your work is emerging as the leading edge of bold policy that centers caregivers as essential to a thriving economy. Because of your trusted relationships and long-term investment in women-led solutions, you’re securing private-public support for workforce flexibility and universal access to high-quality, affordable childcare and early childhood education (ECE). 

For example, based on a study conducted in partnership with the University of Arizona, the Women’s Foundation of Southern Arizona (WFSA) found that although 89% of Arizona low-income single mothers of young children have a high school education, lacking a postsecondary degree substantially limited their job prospects and earning potential. As a result, WFSA launched a pilot program for single moms eliminating barriers to enrolling in education that can get them onto higher-paying career paths. 

The Women’s Foundation of Colorado has expanded its child care advocacy, becoming active leaders of a policy coalition focused on bolstering Colorado’s workforce to address the state’s shortage of qualified workers within the early care and education (ECE) sector. 

The Iowa Women’s Foundation also is leading a statewide initiative working with businesses, policy makers, child care providers, and nonprofits to “bring Iowa’s child care sector into the 21st century,” using a multi-pronged approach to tackle the issue from all angles.

Thank you for your ongoing work that recognizes that change happens at the local level. Only by collaborating with funders, businesses, and other key community stakeholders can we collectively create policy that can have a lasting impact on the lives of women and their communities.

While there is no single solution that will work for all caregivers or all communities, we share your belief that it is possible to create a bold set of options for families and communities to consider and decide what works best for them. 

Yours for equity and justice,

Elizabeth Signature

Elizabeth Barajas-Román
Women’s Funding Network 
President & CEO

Letters from Elizabeth