In June, Maria Chavez, a Provider from Culver City, Tonia McMillian, a Provider from Bellflower, and I traveled to Sacramento to speak to our legislators attending the Joint Committee on Legislative Audit Hearing of Community Child Care Council, known as 4Cs, of Santa Clara County. 4Cs is a Resource & Referral agency the state contracts with to help low-income families find child care. It was discovered that 4Cs misused millions of dollars in state funds. This led to the lack of funding for parents eligible for subsidized care, parent termination, and no payments for child care providers. Although 4Cs was responsible for mismanaging up to 47 million dollars of public state funds their contract was not terminated. Instead, they were put on probation while many of our sister providers’ businesses in the area were shut down!

We knew we had to take action. So we traveled to Sacramento to speak to our elected officials about our concerns. We told them providers were not responsible for the negligence of 4Cs. In fact, our constant issues with 4Cs could have helped expose their illegal activity much sooner. As my union sister Tonia McMillian stated, “This is proof that if we don’t say something, agencies will always get away with inappropriate behavior. Alice de la Garza, Provider from Porterville, has been urging the California Department of Education to look into 4Cs for over a year in our quarterly input meetings. If providers’ profession were valued and respected, we could have caught 4Cs a year ago! While it is important we talk about the lack of oversight of public funds in California’s child care system, we must remember the solution to this is for providers, like us, to have a strong voice on the job with the right to collectively bargain.”

Our legislators committed to following up on the issues we presented and we will continue to knock on their doors until 4Cs is brought to justice. This is not the first time we’ve raised our voices. In 2011, when CCFS, an agency in Carson, was five months behind in payments to providers we contacted CDE and shut it down. The investigation discovered CCFS was grossly mismanaged and it was obligated to close its doors. Providers and families were successfully reassigned to nearby agencies. All providers who had their paperwork in order were also fully reimbursed.

In addition to sharing our concerns with our representatives around 4Cs we were able to gain support for our fight for collective bargaining. I feel proud to have participated in our lobby visits. Providers have so much potential to uplift working families and our future workforce if only we were given the opportunity to collectively bargain. We are the most qualified to point to the irregularities happening across the child care system, like 4Cs and CCFS, because we are forced to deal with them everyday. We will continue to fight for an effective child care system because we know the work we do moves California. Just imagine what we could do with a contract!