Children and Families

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Families form the bedrock of our society and our future. There may be no better predictor of income mobility—escaping poverty to future success—than being raised in an intact two-parent family. Yet despite this, family formation has been declining for decades, driven by changing cultural norms, rising costs of parenting and housing, rising levels of student debt, and a growing fear of the costs of family breakdown. As a child of divorce, I know personally the strain, uncertainty, blame, doubt, and anger which results from the breakdown of a family, which is why I believe we must do everything in our power to remove unnecessary financial impediments which hold back family formation and break down existing families.

I am pro-life. I believe a unique and valuable human life begins at conception and that the human rights of preborn children matter. I believe this not because of religion, but because of science, because of reciprocity, because I know the pain of miscarriage, and because the lives of both my parents (who were born to minors) were directly saved by California’s pre-1970 laws protecting preborn children.

I fully recognize that most Washingtonians and residents of the 44th District may not agree with me, and I do not believe legislators should overturn the will of the voters. Further, any attempt to force through a bill restricting abortion would be met with an immediate referendum which would repeal the law. As such, I believe there are two more productive courses of action: first, people must be convinced that the rights of preborn children are indeed human rights worth defending.

Second, we must reduce the cost of bearing and raising children: birth costs, health care costs, child care costs, supply costs, school costs, costs to one’s career. Washington’s paid parental leave law was a good first step, as are efforts to increase the federal child tax credit, but we need to do much more to build a system where no one is ever deemed too expensive to live.

I believe these two actions complement one another: by fighting for the benefit of families, parents, and children throughout childhood, I hope to credibly prove that this is a fight for the well-being of all children, not to restrict women. Unlike too many Republicans, I’m happy to put my money where my mouth is.

No state in the country puts more of their tax burden on working families than Washington. We have the most regressive tax code in the country due to relying primarily on sales tax revenue (plus the business and occupation tax functions as a second hidden sales tax).

To relieve some of this burden, the legislature passed the Working Families Tax Credit in 2008, which would return up to $1,200 of sales tax revenue to low-income families. However, the Democratic-controlled legislature never bothered to fund this program for over a decade, meaning no one received a penny.

Finally, the legislature approved funding for the credit starting in 2023. I fully support this credit and will make it priority to ensure the Working Families Tax Credit continually maintains its funding.

New parents quickly discover that health insurance treats birth expenses for mothers and newborns separately, with each having their own deductible and yearly out-of-pocket maximum, even when many procedures have substantial overlap. One simple change could halve the direct costs of child bearing to parents, which could make a huge difference for mothers with high deductible plans or who need expensive NICU care: have insurance count first-year expenses for newborns against their mother’s insurance rather than their own.

This change would provide dramatic relief for new parents and could be easily implemented for families covered by Medicaid and Cascade Care. Due to ERISA– a federal law– employee-based plans can not be required to implement this change, but an incentive can be provided such that insurance companies voluntarily do so.

WIC is a federal program designed to financially assist low-income pregnant women, new mothers, and young children. Along with basic healthcare services, WIC provides vouchers to be used to purchase an approved list of essential items such as formula and basic food products. WIC funding is provided by the federal government to the states, who administer the program and determine which specific items are covered. While an invaluable program for poor and working class families, the program does not cover one of the most essential and expensive items for parents of young children: diapers. Let’s supplement federal WIC funding with state funds in order to add diapers to the list of items WIC vouchers can buy.

“Baby box” programs send expecting parents a box of essentials approximately three months before birth. These programs are in place and highly popular in the states of Alabama, New Jersey, Ohio, and Texas and internationally in Finland and Scotland. Baby boxes are typically a hard cardboard, which can serve as an emergency crib, and contain a mattress, packs of diapers and wipes, newborn onesies, breastfeeding aids, and information for new parents. These programs can provide a vital boost of confidence to new parents who may be concerned about how they’ll manage materially after their child is born.

Let’s give working parents a break on the yearly school supply rush, ease burdens on teachers, and ensure students are well-prepared for the school year. Let’s create a state sales tax holiday every August on essential back-to-school items such as backpacks, notebooks, calculators, children’s clothes and shoes, writing utensils, lunch bags, staplers, and notebook computers under $300.

Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act has been one of the great successes for the working class in recent national policy. In addition to increasing health access and outcomes for the 14 million who gained coverage, there have also been sharp reductions in medical debt incurred, evictions for low-income renters, and high-interest loans taken on. Collectively, the policy has made working and pursuing meaningful work for the newly covered much easier, markedly raising economic mobility and prospects for them and their families.

On a personal level, expanded Medicaid directly benefited my mother, who through long-term stints of homelessness could not afford coverage otherwise. I pledge that I will never ask working families and the poor to suffer cuts to this vital program without first requiring those who can better afford it to pay their share.

Let’s protect pregnant women from employment discrimination by repealing Washington’s at-will employment laws which allow for firing without cause. In my experience, pregnant women are one of the groups most likely to be discriminated against in employment due to perceptions of high costs and likelihood of leaving the workforce, and even a thin veneer of non-falsifiable additional reasoning allows this to slide through under current labor laws.

Let’s provide all workers with the right to take paid bereavement leave in the event they or their partner experience unplanned pregnancy loss. Similar policies have been enacted in cities like Pittsburgh and Portland, but our state’s paid family and medical leave act does not cover these situations unless they require specific medical intervention.

An emerging biotech industry known as “noninvasive prenatal testing” is more and more utilized by expectant parents in an effort to detect possible major developmental issues in their preborn children. These in vitro diagnostics claim high reliability but are completely unregulated by the FDA and, thanks to the statistical Bayes Law, over-diagnose rare birth defects at tremendous rates– many tests reach false positive rates of 80-95%. While these screenings are intended to segue into more rigorous tests, these subsequent tests are expensive and can only be done much later in pregnancy.

The end result is that many women who desperately want to be mothers feel forced into aborting a child for what frequently are false medical reasons. This predatory industry must not be allowed to falsely advertise services which result in misinformed choices and lives lost to corporate greed.

Child Care

Most of Washington’s policies toward child care focus primarily on subsidizing large center-based child care despite most parents preferring smaller home and family child care settings. Only 25% of children under 6 attend a child care center, with half of those doing so in a faith-based setting, and the majority of all income levels except those making above $150,000 a year prefer something other than full-time, center-based child care. Working class parents especially have concerns about child care centers– a supermajority of whom fear neglect or abuse at the centers available on their budget.

Family and home child care programs (functionally small businesses) allow more individual attention for their children, are more responsive to shared cultural needs and contexts, build upon existing networks of trust, and provide necessary competitive pressures to high cost and supply-constrained child care centers. These programs are widely used in Canada, for example, where child care costs are much lower and only 11% of parents felt forced to choose the only option affordable to them. Canada achieves this by requiring minimal formal licensing requirements for small programs beyond a background check, first aid training, and health and safety inspections. Given that almost all of the benefit for early childhood education arises from play-based socialization and economic gains for parents, not curriculum, most formal credentialing for child care only serves to raise prices and restrict access while providing minimal benefits to children.

Let’s redirect subsidies away from center-based child care toward family and home child care programs, provide stipends for stay-at-home parents and intra-family caregivers, and reduce licensing requirements for smaller child care providers. Simply pumping money into existing expensive centers only entrenches our overpriced and undesirable system.

Family child care programs are almost universally independent small businesses which serve eight or fewer children at a time. The small and numerous nature of these child care programs means they often lack the economies of scale afforded to larger centers, limiting access to highest quality materials and producing higher than necessary costs.

We can solve these issues by providing start-up capital, flexible licensing, and technical assistance for shared service alliances (SSAs) between networks of family child care programs. SSAs would allow family child care programs to consolidate administrative duties, reduce director time spent on non-child care functions, coordinate staffing and substitutes, gain bulk discounts on high-quality supplies, and aid in grant writing. This would dramatically raise the quality of family child care programs, allowing them to be more competitive against larger-scale commercial child care centers and also increasing the quality of service provided to children and parents.

Burdensome student debt loads for college graduates have two nefarious effects on decisions relating to children: first, they increase demand for child care among existing parents who would otherwise stay at home with their children but need to work to pay off their loans; and second, they lead non-parent graduates who may like to be parents to delay children or forgo entirely for financial reasons.

While student loans should be phased out entirely, we can provide some relief for indebted graduates by creating a credit wherein Washington will make a one-time student loan payment on their behalf– up to $3,000– upon proof of equivalent child care expenses. This payment would increase to $5,000 if the child care expenses were paid to a family or home child care program. This program would be paid for by reductions in direct subsidies to existing child care centers.

More than ever before, many seniors find themselves chronically lonely and isolated, robbing their lives of meaning and joy while posing many health risks. One way to address this issue while also reducing child care costs is to build child care centers into independent and assisted living facilities for seniors. By co-locating these facilities and allowing seniors who pass a background check to assist traditional child care staff with young children, we simultaneously accomplish four things:

1) We provide an meaningful outlet for youthful interaction for seniors who may rarely get to see children

2) We provide young children with an opportunity for intergenerational learning they may otherwise not receive

3) We lower the number of paid staff required for child care while keeping a high adult-child ratio

4) We allow for cost sharing and other contracting efficiencies between the child care centers and senior facilities, such as for food service