I just returned from paternity leave after becoming a father to a beautiful baby boy — Noah Hardin Zachrich. As a newly minted dad, this Father’s Day felt different to me.
While I’m always happy to receive ties and power tools, what fathers really need are fundamental changes that allow all of us to take care of our families.
Families are struggling in Ohio.
About 450,000 children consistently went to bed hungry last year.
Despite working hard to provide for their children, many parents still have to skip meals, scraping food from their own plate to their child’s. When parents go to work, they’ve got to shell out huge sums for much-needed child care. The average cost of child care is $12,860 a year in Franklin County.
With the costs of parenting rising and wages stagnant, many fathers are struggling. Because Ohio doesn’t ensure parental leave with private employers, parents are forced to choose between their job and their family. Every parent deserves the time I had to bond with my son. But, in Ohio, most fathers don’t get that gift.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
We can — and we should — build a community that takes care of each other; one that allows fathers to focus on the joys and challenges of parenting.
We can march toward this brighter future by passing President Joe Biden’s American Families Plan. While the plan is filled with great elements, there are three key elements which would allow millions of American workers to support their families at work and at home: affordable child care and universal preschool, free community college and parental leave.
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Hard-working families shouldn’t need to spend their whole income on child care, and child care workers deserve a living wage. Biden’s plan would ensure that families can afford child care and start their child’s education right with high-quality pre-K.
After graduating from Columbus Alternative High School, I took out mountains of loans to pay for my college degree. I’m still fighting to get those private loans with double-digit interest rates under control. The plan Biden is advancing includes two years of free community college and support for HBCUs, critical steppingstones for families seeking to avoid the student loan trap.’
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Finally, the American Families Plan would bring great relief to families by ensuring a national paid leave program, meaning parents could take the time to bond with new children, or take time away from work in a medical emergency without suffering an insurmountable financial hit.
I’ve heard some folks scoff at these ideas and question how we’ll afford it all. I think a better question is, “how can we afford not to?”
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I’m confident the ultra-wealthy can afford to pay more so that Ohio families can afford child care, kids can benefit from high-quality pre-K, and students can get the skills they need to support their own families.
The American Families Plan won’t fix all the problems fathers face. But it will ease the burden for many of us. It lets us imagine a world we’ll be proud to raise our children in — where no matter where we come from, what we do for a living or what’s in our bank account, all of our children will be safe, well fed, well educated and well loved.
We should do more to honor fathers than getting them a funny card and a sweet gift each Father’s Day. Let’s get them and our families the support they need by passing the American Families Plan.
Shannon Hardin is president of the Columbus City Council.