Caring for children often forces women to skip doctor’s appointments, take lower-paying jobs and carry extra stress that is bad for their health. A statewide New Mexico initiative may provide the answer

By Courtney Duchene, The Philadelphia Citizen
May 29, 2024

Patricia Bustillos works part-time cleaning offices, volunteers at a community advocacy group — and is often called on to care for her two youngest grandchildren, both infants, one who is only six weeks old. It’s no wonder the mother of four children and grandmother to nine is exhausted at the end of the day — and has little time to care for herself.

“It’s difficult for me,” Bustillos said via a translator. “Starting over with a baby, it’s difficult.”

The high costs and lack of availability of childcare has made such difficulties an increasingly common struggle for families. There are 39,400 fewer childcare workers in the U.S. today than there were at the outset of the pandemic, per Center for American Progress data from September 2023, while costs remain prohibitive for low- and even middle-income families. In Pennsylvania, full-time infant care averages between $9,000 to $14,000 per year and $7,000 to $10,000 per year for toddlers and preschoolers.

Despite the challenges faced by Bustillos and her family, in some ways they are luckier than many. They live in New Mexico, which has become an unlikely pioneer in childcare affordability. Last year, two of Bustillos’ grandchildren were able to take advantage of a free childcare program the state created to reduce the financial strain on families.

Read more at The Philadelphia Citizen