In a Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee hearing on paid family leave today, U.S. Senator Mitt Romney questioned proposals put forth by Democrats that put an emphasis on young children being in a professional child care setting approved by the government rather than being at home with their parents and family. President Biden’s American Families Plan proposes a new $425 billion government day care program, increases the marriage tax penalty, and favors families with two working parents over parents who prefer to have one parent stay at home. Romney recently proposed the Family Security Act to provide greater financial security for America’s families. Romney’s proposal would ensure that expecting parents receive the help they need to face expenses associated with preparing for a child, and low-income families would no longer have to choose between a bigger paycheck or maintaining eligibility for support. Parents would be eligible to receive the cash benefit 4 months prior to their child’s due date, and it would continue to be administered on a monthly basis.
Senator Romney’s exchange with Marcia St. Hilaire-Finn, founder and CEO of Bright Start Early Care and Preschool in Washington, D.C., can be found below. Video of the exchange can be found here.
Senator Romney: …Looking at the Democratic proposals with regards to child care, there seems to be a very significant bias toward providing [free] child care and pre-k education and so forth, which encourage, if you will, women and men going into the workforce, as opposed to saying, “Hey, if one of you wants to stay and raise the child, that’s acceptable too.” And it does seem like the Administration strongly prefers getting kids out of the home and getting both parents into the workforce, and I understand there’s an economic reality to that, or an advantage to that – and yet I also think there is a developmental advantage to a child—if parents want to have one, or both, remain home to raise a child—there’s a childrearing advantage to that as well. Are you concerned, and I guess I’m going to direct this to the member of this panel that is responsible for child care. Are you concerned that too much focus on federal mandates actually may be detrimental to the effects on children who might otherwise be raised with the intensive involvement and investment on the part of the parent or one of the parents for that child?
Marcia St. Hilaire-Finn: Thank you Senator for the question, yeah I think two things here. For one thing, children develop better in an environment where they can engage with others besides their family members, and allowing a child to be in a setting where they can develop the cognitive and social, emotional skills will allow the parents to go to work, and won’t have to worry about their child falling behind by the time they are ready for kindergarten.
Romney: Let me just interrupt, your first point was that—make sure I understand—you believe it’s better for a child to not be in the home in their neighborhood with parents—let’s say a 3-or 4-year-old child—they are better being in a professional child care center approved by the government than being in their home and their neighborhood?
St. Hilaire-Finn: Well, it’s more beneficial for the child. Children learn better in a setting outside the – well with families first, always the family is the child’s first teacher.
Romney:I didn’t realize I was at a disadvantage because I was raised by my mom who stayed home. I guess what you describe is a perspective on the part of the Administration which I find contrary to personal experience and contrary to the perspective of many parents. I would think that as we think about the policies that we want to have with regards to child rearing, that we would give authority to the parents to make that decision, as opposed to an Administration to make it for them.
St. Hilaire-Finn: Sir, yes, well Senator again, parents are the first teachers and a child’s preference is to be with the family. But if the family cannot allow to do that, it’s greatly beneficial for a child to be in a setting where they can get the support to develop their social, emotional, and cognitive skills. We have seen studies that show that children outside of the family who are in group settings do much better socially, emotionally, and cognitively. So I know we don’t want to dethrone the nation to take care of parents’ responsibility, but it’s a partnership and it helps foster a child’s development better than just being with the parent.