On January 5th, with a surge of the COVID-19 pandemic as her backdrop, Governor Hochul delivered the 2022 State of the State address. Beyond her ambitious pandemic response plan, the first female Governor of New York State focused on some of the most impactful issues for children and families, including addressing housing stability and homelessness, expanding affordable childcare, and investing in childcare settings. Not shared in her speech were Governor Hochul’s plans to bolster the nation’s strongest anti-discrimination law, strengthen the office for New Americans, expand Medicaid coverage for postpartum care, and improve and expand access to prenatal and postnatal care, all effective approaches to uplift historically marginalized New Yorkers to contribute to healing from historical racial and socioeconomic inequities.
While expanding affordable childcare and increasing childcare wages begins to bolster a resource unattainable for many families of color, the governor’s scope is a drop in the ocean compared to the countless families in need of quality childcare options for their children. Our families and communities deserve a robust, universal childcare program that allows caregivers the opportunity to provide for their family through employment while also feeling confident that their children are receiving quality care during the most important days of their young child’s development. Universal childcare holds the promise of holistically democratizing child and family wellbeing in ways that are currently reserved for a privileged few. Providing all families with this opportunity can assure a bright start for our children. These assurances are rare in a nation that frequently cites prohibitive costs and cumbersome bureaucracy as it shies away from family support, but the benefits of providing for our families pays dividends beyond our investment, and holds the possibility to span across communities and generations.
Our Governor exclaims that New York embraces and celebrates ‘racial, ethnic and gender diversity’ at the same time that her message falls short in failing to recognize the root causes of our state’s struggles that lay at the feet of our historic and current practices of racial and economic inequalities responsible for the intergenerational trauma and toxic stress experienced by our children and families. Nowhere does this inequality glare more than in limited family policy that stifles our communities of color throughout New York City and our state. Governor Hochul called for ‘a better, fairer, more inclusive version of the American Dream’ that she calls ‘The New York Dream.’ We hope that her dream learns from the inequities of American dreams-past, and includes the promise of an equitable start for the young children and families of color across our state.