California has led the way in paid leave policies, including bonding time for adopted and foster children. The state also has a robust child care system in place.
However, the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the limitations and disparities of that child care system, which has opened the door to explore new policies and possibilities for creative solutions to provide work/home balance.
One of the lawmakers leading the charge to find these solutions is State Assemblymember Buffy Wicks, a Bay Area Democrat who found herself on the assembly floor last year with her newborn baby in arms pushing for, among other things, child care reform. The image of Wicks and her baby at the state capitol in Sacramento quickly went viral.
"When we talk about paid leave policies and early childhood care policies here in California, I think we need to reimagine how we support working families," said Wicks. "This is our future. It requires dreaming bigger, but that's what we do here in California."
KABC-TV meteorologist Leslie Lopez also experienced a moment that went viral after her baby unexpectedly walked in on her live weather report from home.
"When Nolan showed up on my green screen and the moment went viral, I heard from so many different parents saying 'Yes, that's the moment right there that we're dealing with working from home,'" said Lopez. "But what also happened was it kind of kick-started a conversation about 'Why can't this be the new normal?' The problem is equity. It's not inclusive."
"I believe that the folks who designed our child care system and a lot of our public assistance programs were well-intentioned," said Mary Ignatius, statewide organizer at Parent Voices, a non-profit that advocates and assists working parents. "However, when you don't have the families who have the greatest barriers and the greatest obstacles at the table helping you understand and create a system that is going to be inclusive of them, then you're going to design systems that essentially leave them out."
"We see the achievement gap issues amongst race start at a very young age," said Assemblymember Wicks. "That's in part because we don't have these policies that help working families. And if we in California want to continue to be a state that leads the nation and leads the world, we need to support our little ones."