Child Care at Government Meetings Proposed by Council Member Kallos
Parents Could Request Child Care, Reducing Barriers to Participation in Government Meetings;
Child Care Aims to Increase Women’s Participation in Government and Running for Office
New York, NY – Parents interested in having a say in local government could have free child care provided by the city under proposed legislation by Council Member Ben Kallos. The legislation was announced today in honor of the United Nations Women's founding of HeForShe and launch of IMPACT 10x10x10 Parity. It was inspired by a move to provide childcare at conferences in academia, civic technology, and by NYC Community Education Council 2. Countless parents have found childcare to be a challenge to their professional careers, not to mention civic engagement.
“It actually costs parents money to be civically engaged,” said Council Member Ben Kallos, who grew up with a single mother and now offers free child care at his annual events. “How can democracy work when we exclude parents from representing the interests of themselves and their children because they may not have access to child care? If we want to build an inclusive democracy here in New York City it means offering free child care when we want to hear from any New Yorker who has children.”
Nearly one-third of family households in New York City are led by single mothers. According to the U. S. Census Bureau, in New York City in 2015 there were 6.7 million people living in family households of which 4.1 million were married-couples (61%) and 2.6 million were single parents, 2 million of whom were single mothers (30%).
Child care is one of the top three factors women consider in running for office, more so than men, according to research by Rutgers University.[i] In academia, the lack of child care at conference was identified more than a decade ago as “a barrier to entry,” according to Science Magazine. Since then child care is now beginning to be provided on-site at conferences or funded through grants to individual scientists through universities and foundations, according to Science Magazine. Still, child care at conferences is not universal, with funding often insufficient, which leaves women to continue to advocate in Slate and Forbes.
“If we want to create a future where women are fully represented, then it's imperative that we remove the barriers that prevent active participation in civic life,” said Sonia Ossorio, President, National Organization for Women - New York. “We commend Councilmember Ben Kallos for making the connection that child care is one of those key barriers that disproportionately impact women. With women being less than 25% of the New York City Council, this measure has the potential to increase the pipeline of women leaders and sends a clear signal from city government that child care remains a core issue for families.”
Under the legislation, local government agency hearings open to public comment would include a notice offering free child care. Upon request at least five days prior to the event, the Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) would provide child care in compliance with standards set forth by the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH). Non-Mayoral parts of city government including other elected officials such as the City Council and Community Boards would also be able to use the same process to request free child care for their events where the public is invited to comment and has requested child care.
Mayoral agency events include City Planning Commission hearings on rezoning neighborhoods, Board of Standards and Appeals hearings on whether to relieve buildings of zoning requirements, Department of Consumer Affairs’ sidewalk cafes, New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) on spending and repairs, among many others. City Council and Community Board hearings would also provide child care upon request of a resident which would be fulfilled by ACS at no cost to the Council or the city’s 59 Community Boards.
“As the number of women in the NYC Council has taken a trend downward over the past eight years, from 18 to just 12 out of 51 come January, we must do everything we can to encourage more women to run for office. Child care is a necessary step. Although our public campaign finance system helps level the playing field for fundraising, household finances are still a barrier,” said Moira McDermott, Executive Director of the 21 in ’21 Initiative to elect more women to the City Council in 2021. “This legislation would enable more women to become civically engaged, and have a voice in their community. Local participation is the initial step, and I commend Council Member Kallos for introducing this crucial legislation.”
“Our future is dependent on an inclusive society. Since providing free on-site childcare, we've seen our community's diversity grow. We are honored to be this bill's inspiration and we look forward to the day that all parents have an opportunity for full municipal participation,” said Noel Hidalgo, Executive Director of BetaNYC whose conference offering child care inspired the legislation.
“Civic participation is the foundation of democracy. However, some segments of our population face barriers that rob them of their voices in the decision-making process. This bill will remove one of those barriers and give parents of young children the opportunity to participate. It is an important step toward stronger democracy in our city,” said Shino Tanikawa, a parent leader on a Community Education Council in Manhattan that already offers free child care at their public meetings.
“Now more than ever it is crucial for the public to engage with its civic leaders. Parents want to be involved, but too often childcare is an obstacle to in-person engagement. Not only would providing this assistance allow parents to attend meetings with their representatives, but it would serve as a wonderful model for the children themselves, growing the next generation of citizens participating in their own governance. This meaningful legislation signals that our elected officials are committed to hearing from and engaging with their constituents,” said Deborah Alexander, Co-President of Community Education Council 30 for Long Island City.
“Before I became a parent, as a member of Community Board 8's Education Committee I often wondered why more parents didn't attend our meetings. Parents have a clear and present interest in the democratic process on behalf of their children,” said Sarah Chu, Community Board 8 Member who advocated for this legislation with Council Member Kallos to increase public participation in Community Boards. “Yet, there is a huge drop off in parent participation, not because people stop caring once they become parents, but because paying for childcare to attend meetings is tremendously burdensome for a young family. The reasons to become involved increase once we become parents as we try to support and improve our schools and make sure streets are safe for our children. Adopting this is legislation is important because it tells parents that their engagement in civic life is necessary and valued. This legislation makes it possible for more parents to be involved and paves the way for families to increase their impact.”
By Council Member Kallos
A Local Law to amend the New York city charter, in relation to childcare services at public meetings
Be it enacted by the Council as follows:
Section 1. Chapter 47 of the New York city charter is amended to add a new section 1069.2 1 to read as follows:
§ 1069.2 Childcare at public meetings.
a. For the purposes of this section, the following terms shall have the following meanings:
Administering agency. The term “administering agency” shall mean the administration for children’s services.
Child. The term “child” shall mean a natural person under the age of thirteen years.
Childcare Services. The term “childcare services” shall mean care for a child at a location in proximity to a covered meeting by either a provider licensed and registered pursuant to section 390 of the New York state social services law or a person or entity compliant with the standards established pursuant to subdivision c of this section.
Covered Meeting. The term “covered meeting” means any public meeting held by a mayoral agency at which testimony from the public is accepted, but does not include any event
or activity for which the primary purpose is entertainment or recreation.
b. The administering agency shall, upon request in a form and manner to be determined by such agency, provide childcare services at all covered meetings. Such request shall be submitted no less than five business days prior to the covered meeting by a parent, step-parent or guardian that will be attending the covered meeting.
c. Any invitation, advertisement, poster or public notice for a covered meeting, whether in print or via electronic means, shall contain information on how a request for childcare services may be submitted and the deadline for when such a request must be received.
d. The department of health and mental hygiene shall establish, by rule, standards for the provision of childcare services provided pursuant to this section by any person or entity not required to be licensed or regulated by the New York state social services law. Such standards shall at minimum include provision for a criminal history screening, a check against the statewide central register of child abuse and maltreatment required levels of training or experience in childcare, and a ratio for the number of children to adults.
e. For any meeting, other than a covered meeting or an event or activity for which the primary purpose is entertainment or recreation, that is open to the public and held by a city governmental entity other than a mayoral agency, such city governmental entity may request that childcare services be provided for such meeting pursuant to subdivision b of this section, provided that a request from a parent, step-parent or guardian that will be attending the meeting has been received and that the administering agency is informed no less than five business days prior to the meeting.
f. The requirements of this section shall be limited by the appropriation of funds available for such purpose.
§ 2. This local law takes effect one year after becoming law.