How Care Can Bring Our Country Together (Live from CareFest LA)

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Presented by Neighborhood Villages. Neighborhood Villages is a Massachusetts-based systems change non-profit. It envisions a transformed, equitable early childhood education system that lifts up educators and sets every child and family up to thrive. In pursuit of this vision, Neighborhood Villages designs, evaluates, and scales innovative solutions to the biggest challenges faced by early childhood education providers and the children and families who rely on them, and drives policy reform through advocacy, education, and research.

This episode is made possible through the sponsorship and support of Caring Across Generations. Caring Across Generations envisions a world where we all can access and afford the support we need, from child care and paid leave to aging and disability care. Caring Across Generations is putting care at the front and center of our culture and policies, while bringing together those who are impacted most to build stronger and more equitable systems that work for us all. You can learn more about Caring Across Generations at, or connect on Facebook and Instagram at CaringAcrossGen.

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Gloria Riviera, Lisa Hamilton Daly, Jenn Stowe, Monica Ramirez

Gloria Riviera  01:03

Well hello, and welcome to this special episode of No One Is Coming To Save Us from Lemonada Media. This podcast was co created with our friends at neighborhood villages, a systems change nonprofit working to realize a future in which all families have access to affordable high quality early education and care. Today’s panel is made possible with support from Caring Across Generations. We want to thank them for their partnership and planning this conversation and this entire event really, we are live from Care Fest in Los Angeles, what an amazing experience it is to be with all of you today. So thank you all for joining us. This podcast usually focuses, as you know, on early childhood care and education. So that’s why the topic of today Karen Komen resonates so much with me, with all of us really at Lemonada Media and Neighborhood Villages. Neighborhood Villages brought this topic to Lemonada, in the early days, it was about I don’t know at this point four years ago, I remember interviewing for the job of hosts and being very nervous, but learning about what they do resonated with me because they’re so passionate, and really hell bent on fixing early education and care in this country. What I often say what I’m sure many of us often say is that it doesn’t have to be like this, the state of early education and childcare in this country, and that can really be something that can be said about care. It’s an issue that resonates with all of us. The child care workers who help our little babies look just like the caregivers helping our loved ones as they get older. You know, that feeling I remember of walking into my daughter’s preschool and seeing her teacher and feeling like, thank goodness, you’re here, you know, had been a long morning. And I had the same feeling when my father passed away in 2016 that his caregiver brought me such peace and calm, much needed in that time. The theme of care it really crosses the political divide. So many people will encounter it, everyone will encounter it. We all will have our own relationship with care we do from the moment we’re born till the moment we leave this earth. It’s part of being human red or blue, rural or urban various wealth brackets, it does not matter, you don’t have to be a caregiver to believe that caregiving is important to empathize with care situations, or imagine what your own future care needs will be. So what do we do about it? How do we leverage the understanding of this critical topic to make positive change? That’s what we’re going to talk about today with my panel of excellent guests first off joining me is Lisa Hamilton Daly, she is the Executive Vice President of programming for Hallmark Media welcome. All also joining me is Monica Ramirez, Monica is an attorney, author and founder of Justice For Migrant Women along with the LatinX House and Poteristas, w.elcome. And we’re also excited to have Jenn Stowe, Jenn is the Executive Director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, welcome Jenn!

Gloria Riviera  04:55

. So Jenn, I’m gonna start with you, and I’m gonna ask a tough question but when I know that you’re prepared to answer and that’s taking a look at where we are, we’re a year away, it’s November, we’re a year away from the next presidential election. There are so many issues out there dividing us, but care is not quite so divisive. What is the profile of how we think about care in this country? Why does it unite people? And what is the challenge to get to the next election and make care a central issue?

Jenn Stowe  05:35

Well, I think that, first off, it’s so incredible to be with you all today. Care in this country is a majoritarian issue, it’s an issue that everyone can see themselves in whether they are caring for a loved one, or whether they are caring for someone that they love now, or whether they can see themselves caring for someone in the future, we like to say that people in this country, their caregivers are future caregivers. I think that where we are now as a country is that we look at care as very individualistic as an individual responsibility, something that you innately just do and you take on, and I think that what we have to do the work that we have to do over the next year, being a year out from the election is really feeding a new public narrative, and making a new common sense that says that two things one, everyone in this country deserves care. And the government has a role to play in supporting the infrastructure for it. And two that care workers, the workers who get up every day and take care of our loved ones. They they really deserve good jobs, jobs that have family sustaining wages, jobs that provide them the level of dignity and respect that they deserve, and access to a union too. So I think it’s really about shifting the narrative on from care being individualistic to something that should have community support. And that’s the work that we’ll be doing over the next year.

Gloria Riviera  07:08

One thing that’s interesting to me is that wait, yeah, let’s applaud. Monica, and I understand that another reason this issue, the issue of care crosses such divides is because it’s valuable and can help our economy and our communities. Can you talk us through that?

Monica Ramirez  07:28

Yeah, thank you so much and hi, everybody it’s great to be here, congrats to everyone who worked so hard to put this beautiful convening together. You know, the reality is it and I think that the folks that came across and the folks that end TWA have said this best over and over again, which is that, you know, the work that caregivers, the work that domestic workers that work is central to making all other work possible, that is what is said and that is what is true. And when people do not have the care that they need to be able to take care of their loved ones, whether that be an ailing parent or a young child, and then that prevents them from being able to go to work, then we see people who are being forced out of the workplace, we saw that in huge numbers during the pandemic, we saw millions of women who are being pushed out of the workforce because they didn’t have the kind of care the the kind of benefits that allowed them to stay in work and have what they needed to be able to have their children cared for and that has a huge economic impact when people have to step out or step aside from the workforce, that means that almost immediately, their income is cut in half, that means they have less to contribute in terms of consumerism, that means that there’s an increased stress and burden on the family to figure out how to meet basic needs and we’ve seen that so people have to start understanding in this country that care is an must be an economic imperative. And that if we do not provide everyone in this country, with what is required to be able to care for our loved ones, and for ourselves, should we get sick, what have you, then there is a real danger, people don’t talk about the danger to our society, should we not have the caretakers available to be able to provide the necessary care, like when I think about migrant women, you know, an immigrant women, immigrant women comprise about 20% of the care workforce. And there was a study that was released, and it was taking a look at the anti immigrant policies that have had been passed in different states. And in particular, it took a look at Arizona. And it said because of the chilling factor that resulted because of that policy, and they saw people withdrawing from jobs out of fear that that nearly crippled the economy. And so we have to start talking about those very specific examples of the economic harm that is caused when people don’t have the support that they need to be able to do their jobs because they’re afraid that something bad is going to happen to them or their families. But the converse of that is that when people don’t have people to provide the care that is needed, that also means that other families and other people are making choices about whether or not they can stay in the workforce. And so it isn’t, it isn’t a conversation that should be fragmented it’s a conversation that must be had together. And we really need to be thinking about should we not have the supports for caregivers to be able to do their work with under just conditions. What is the potential consequence to our country and the long haul? And I think that we should all be very concerned that if we don’t take action right now that there could be long term consequences that are negative for all of us.

Gloria Riviera  10:37

Right, what resonates with me in terms of what you just said, yeah, more applause. I don’t think I’ve heard it articulated, so crisply, the idea of consequences, and specifically the word danger, like we’re at an inflection point, that will be harmful for our country as a whole if we don’t address this issue, something that I ran up against, in making known as coming to save us is that I look around the world, and I look specifically, there’s a province in Canada in 1996, they pass something akin to universal childcare, and education at the cost of I think at that time, $5 a month, it’s gone up to when we checked eight ish dollars a month. And they have the data so they know, more women in the workforce, increased tax dollars, the trickle down positive effect is there. It’s it’s in the data that they have not only in that province, but around the world, so where are we challenged in our messaging, if hard data like that exists? And how do we get people activated on the issue?

Monica Ramirez  11:53

I mean, I think that one of the things that carrying across does so well is they make they make the issue personal right, I think the care notes that we’ve been invited to write is a perfect example. Because what we know is that when people feel like there is a personal consequence to them, that they’re motivated to act, we saw that during the pandemic, right, everyone was afraid. And people took action, whether that be donating to a cause, or figuring out you know, so come, you know, mutual aid solutions, etc. So I think that the mess of the data is one thing, some of us are motivated by data I liked. But I think what most people is our hearts. And I think the more personal that we can make this by sharing the stories of, you know, how we’ve been cared for, or who we care for, or why not having the proper care will have a negative impact on us in our lives. I think that, you know, helps to do that what we were talking about here, unite people, because people can understand, from a very personal level, how they are impacted in, you know, in their humanity is impacted by care how they were cared for, or how they hope to be cared for, and so I think it’s the storytelling is key, we have to keep telling the stories. And I think that is going to help move people to action.

Gloria Riviera  13:18

Well, thankfully, we have someone here, who is leading the charge on storytelling, and Lisa and I were chatting backstage, so many topics that are broadening the brand of Hallmark, right? I think of Hallmark and it makes me feel warm and cozy. Makes me feel good but there are some stories that Hallmark is telling now that expand how we think about care. Can you share some of those with.

Lisa Hamilton Daly  13:46

I can first of all, I’d like to say I’m really honored to share the stage with Gloria and Jenn and Monica who are doing such important work in the field, it’s really an honor to be here and to hear you guys in the work you’re doing so thank you. Hallmark has a you know, decade plus of making Christmas movies that make everyone feel great at Christmas. But the parent company of Hallmark was feeling like that wasn’t quite encompassing all the parts of the brand that they really wanted to bring forward. Hallmark is a very purpose driven company and Hallmark media in particular, our sort of internal North Star, our our tagline is putting care into the world through stories of joy, positivity and love. That’s something that’s really important to us and we felt like just telling the stories of two people falling in romantic love was not enough, the did not encompass enough of the human experience. So what we’re really starting to do is to try to really think about all the different kinds of love there are in the world. And Care is such an integral part of all of that it’s multi generational stories its 3G grandmother, a mother daughter, it’s you know, father and daughter, it’s brother and sister, it’s best friends, it’s groups of friends, it’s found family and how those groups of people care for and love each other and that’s where really important part of the story is we want to tell, we’re also trying to diversify our movies through an nr series through telling stories with people of different abilities. We are using actors who are wheelchair users who are deaf or who are you know, and we’re really trying to push into that have those people be part of our stories part of the world show how the care of those people and how they integrate into that world is such a crucial part of our society. And I think we’re really trying to reflect that more and more as we go.

Lisa Hamilton Daly  13:58

Have you heard back from the people who see those stories?

Lisa Hamilton Daly  15:11

We have, and I think that, you know, our desire is that more people can see themselves and what we’re doing. It’s, it’s an evolution, we’re working on it. And I think that we’re starting to hear, you know, we had an actress who was not assigned zero and a movie last weekend. I mean, it’s just, it’s a little thing but people are like, I saw myself like I got and people are getting their love stories, they’re getting their family stories, we’re really trying to like, make it so that everyone feels valued. And I think you know, what I’m doing is a little more abstract than what you guys are doing but I think when you talk about, we need to tell stories, I think that being in the culture, and really putting forward these caring relationships as an as an ideal, and as a value has real resonance.

Gloria Riviera  16:12

Absolutely, I mean, I feel like if there’s anything I learned and going around the country and talking to caregivers, it’s the intersectionality of everything that we do, right, and the idea of trust, and the idea that two disparate sides can come together for a common goal. We’ve seen that happen in Oregon in Multnomah County where they were able to pass incredible legislation for universal pre K. So I believe that the work that Hallmark is doing is critical because it gives a profile to what we’re really talking about.

Gloria Riviera  16:13

Back to how we see this in terms of the next presidential election, Jenn, support is high, right? We’re looking at like 60 70% on these issues, which not a lot of other policy proposals enjoy in this country, right. We’re all in agreement that yes, this sounds like a good idea. Is it really a shared value, though, on a deeper level? I mean, I feel like that’s the work that you do when you conduct your focus groups, and you’re getting really underneath the hood. What happens when you have that conversation after?

Jenn Stowe  20:59

Yeah, that sounds like a good idea. I think it is a shared value. I really think, Gloria, it’s about connecting the dots. I’m struck over the past few days, how many people I’ve talked to how many people we’ve heard from who say that they did not identify as a caregiver, they didn’t think of themselves as a caregiver, even though they’re caring for their aunt, or they’re caring for their loved one with disabilities, or they are caring for the grandmother on and off. So I think it’s about connecting the dots and having people really take on the identity of caregiving. I think it is a shared value but we have to do that work, letting folks know that yes, you are a caregiver, and it’s a shared struggle, and you’re not alone. You should have support to do this work. And I think, Lisa, that the work that you do is not abstract at all, I think it’s so integral to the work that we’re doing, to really try to connect the dots for people, you really need narrative, you really need to shift the culture. And so I think that we all have a shared value set. It’s about taking on the identity of caregiver and the understanding that we really deserve support, and what does it look like to really provide the support that we need, from the time that we’re born to the time that we transition like, what would that look like, and to have the choice of what care we get to?

Gloria Riviera  22:21

It makes me think of one set of people who don’t identify as caregivers quite often, and that’s parents? They don’t identify the moment that child comes into their world, they are caregivers. And I feel like there’s some shared DNA between what Monica was talking about about, listen, we need to talk about the consequences if care is not provided. With combined with parents shifting their own self identity as a caregiver, that there could be some momentum and power for parents, right. I mean, there are times in my children’s lives early on when I felt a total lack of power, right? Like, actually, as it turns out, I’m not in charge of anything. But to shift that and in and think about it as a caregiver, that, to me feels like there’s some empowerment in there. And I think that the combination of consequences and empowerment, that’s what we need to instill in people to move to action, definitely. You talked a little bit about how care is such a personal experience, from childhood to illness to disability and aging. I know that we all believe Americans have earned the freedom to choose how they get and receive care. But right now, we don’t have that, well I mean, what exists now are choices in air quotes. But really their choices under duress, right? When you have a waitlist for early childcare that’s six months long, and the commute is 45 minutes away from your home, and then you have to get to your job, that’s that’s not a choice, it’s really what our country is offering is actually coercion. Yeah, that’s right. Oh, good. I get some applause now. It’s true, why are we putting people in that position? So how do we shift that reality? How do we encourage people to name that reality? And what do they do about it?

Jenn Stowe  24:27

I think it’s about the power of people really centering their own stories, and both Monica and Lisa talked about the power of unlocking the personal. I think it’s about continuing to share stories and allowing folks to see themselves in that. Also think it’s about the work that we continue to do to press on the people who have the power to change things right, you know, if I think there was a stat set on the stage yesterday that said that one in three voters are caregivers, that’s a large share of the electorate. And that’s a lot of power. So I really think it’s about pressing on the people who are empowered that that can do something about it. And really like using our vote and civic engagement to actually wield that power to make change.

Gloria Riviera  25:17

Right, Monica, one thing I want to listen to you talk about is the Farm Bill, because there’s some incredibly innovative first time ever things happening in this recent Farm Bill, can you share with us about that?

Monica Ramirez  25:32

Yeah, so I don’t know if the rest of you are up on the Farm Bills I am, I spent a lot of things.

Gloria Riviera  25:38

Just wait, very relevant, yes.

Monica Ramirez  25:41

Very exciting time when it comes to the Farm Bill. So the farm bill is the most important, arguably piece of legislation for rural America, related to food and agriculture and nutrition in our country, and it is reauthorized every five years. So it’s now up for reauthorization. And for the first time ever, in the history of the Farm Bills reauthorization, the two biggest entities that do the sort of the advocacy on the farm bill, the National Farm Bureau, and the National Farmers Union, have both prioritized putting care on the Farm Bill. It is huge, it is huge. And the reason that it is huge is because we know that in rural America, there are care deserts, we know that today 47% of all farms across our country are owned or CO owned by women. So we’re talking 388 million acres of land are owned or CO owned by women in our country. And we know that care disproportionately rests on women, and what we’ve heard from the reports that have been written is that women have talked about how the farmers who own this land are talking about how they are working fewer hours, they’re having to decide who of the partnership will actually be able to work the land, they’re making decisions about whether land needs to be sold there, all these drastic consequences. And people might think like the Farm Bill has nothing to do with me. Do you eat because the Farm Bill has to do with all of us. And so the fact that this is This is historic, and so you know, we need to see that this stays in the bill, because it will make a significant difference in rural America and it’ll it’ll help all of us.

Gloria Riviera  27:34

Right, so what’s so exciting to me about what you’re talking about right now is that you’re looking at a population, and I’m imagining that whoever is running the farm, my grandparents were both farmers, whatever care they’re giving, whether it’s their parent back at the house, you know, they’re doing all of that simultaneously, right? So they are caregivers are also in charge of this farm. So if you eat food, you’re invested in what happens here so to support them is critical. And Lisa, I have to come back to I mean, I’m hearing Monica talk about drastic consequences, care on a farm, loved ones, elders, babies, I think this has the makings of a Hallmark movie. We never never post proposa, but actually, truly, I’m my mother grew up on a farm, we drove through it this summer, to see themselves in a Hallmark movie, we’ll we’ll take what you’re talking about and make it an internally important issue for people.

Lisa Hamilton Daly  28:38

Yeah, I mean, look, I think personal stories are so powerful, as both of you pointed out, and I think that, you know, figuring out how to harness these kinds of issues and and work them into in a way that can be translated into art into in movies is amazing. We do have a series that is takes place on a family farm, I was just watching with some of the dailies the other day of the next season, and like they’re losing the farm, and there is an issue. I mean, there’s issues that you can really talk about around this, these kinds of very personal rooted stories. And I think that that’s when we talk about the election, you know, you want to hope that people might move beyond party affiliation. I don’t know if that’s possible anymore. But if it were to understand that there are certain issues that are universal, that impact everyone, we try to be a non political brand and find things that go across the political spectrum and that appeal to everyone’s core humanity. And it feels to me like trying to I also what I tried to do sometimes is build a little bit of an ideal world. I did I at a previous company, I made a show that was set in the south, and it was a choice I made to sort of set up in my ideal south in my mind where people actually got along. And I actually feel a lot of people found comfort in that that there was a possibility of like racial reconciliation of people really caring about each other across lines that are normally dividing people. And for me that’s a big part of art is not to just show it is but to show what can be or could be or should be. And in this case like listening to this, it’s like there really should be what much more support for people and much more less than the world and it’s, you know, we live in a horrible time right now. So, I just every day it’s depressing and I and I really want to say like, what can we do to sort of help, you know push towards a better future?

Gloria Riviera  32:12

Jenn, as I listened to Lisa brings me back our show went to Detroit and we spoke to a state senator there who was the first person in the state legislature to be pregnant while in office. And she had a lot to say about that. It makes me think of how and I hope you have thoughts on this. How do we harness like, I never would have said that I was a child care voter before I started hosting no one is coming to service, and I never went to my representative to ask now I live in Washington DC and my family’s from Washington State. Like I didn’t think it was important for me to be very dialed in to how my representative thought about care. Now, I’ve got the bumper sticker, I’ve got the t shirt, I’m a child care voter, I’m an early education, I’m a care voter. How do we get the people who are identifying with the movies they see on the Hallmark Channel who are aware of the Farm Bill? What do they need to do? How do we activate them?

Jenn Stowe  33:19

I think it’s about really ceding the ground in the understanding that care is an economic issue. You know, there’s a factual truth that families are facing an affordability crisis right now, when it comes to affording care. And then there’s an emotional truth that care is just hard. It’s difficult, it’s even if you do everything, right, quote, unquote, even if you do, if you save correctly, even if you create all the plans, you still have to work inside of a patchwork system, there is no broad support. So I think it’s about tapping into those factual and emotional truths. And I think it’s about also talking to folks who we wouldn’t necessarily think of when thinking about the election. So I think about people in purple states and swing voters and who we think about as swing voters. And I think it’s about talking to people who are disproportionately impacted by the lack of care. So we’ve been looking at what do we need to say to women of color that are in purple states? And what do we need to say to to young folks, and how can we connect this issue to the change that we can see in this country in connected to voting? And how can we make them take up arms like you did Gloria and say, like, I am a childcare voter, I vote along the lines of care is the most important issue to me. And how can we get people in positions of power, who are directly impacted? We need more elected officials who are who have young children right or who are taking care of loved ones, because they’re connecting that personal to policy. So it’s about making sure we see ourselves at the highest levels of government.

Gloria Riviera  35:06

With the people you’re talking about fall under the swing voter category. Because I want to, I want you to share with us how you approach thinking about swing voters.

Jenn Stowe  35:16

Yeah, I think that oftentimes, when we, when folks talk about a swing voter, they’re thinking of people who are in the Midwest, or sometimes it’s like, white working class, folks but the concept of swing voters and who is in that group, or just people who just need to be persuaded. Maybe they feel like the system hasn’t worked for them. Maybe they set out the last couple of elections, because they feel like, you know, change is impossible, or it’s too far. So it’s really about who do we really need to persuade to come back to voting, and what can we give them? How can we convince them of a better world? Like, what issue can we really center for them, and care is something that impacts so many folks, and it does work across party lines. And we do talk about it in narrative, and people do feel such a strong personal connection. So it’s about connecting the dots and bringing them back to voting and being engaged. And really making them understand that care, is an issue that we can center, we can live in a better world where we can all afford it, where we have access to it. And we’re going to push to make sure that so so it’s about bringing them back and centering cares the issue to really make them feel more engaged and involved.

Gloria Riviera  36:35

I love that that’s a beautiful time. And it’s reflective of the positivity that I’ve seen across the country now, in the last season of No One Is Coming, we went to Oklahoma, we went to Michigan. And I always say if you’re feeling down about an issue, go talk to the people in the fight. Because their early educators were exhausted during COVID. They were doors were closing, but there were people who said no, I’m going to I’m going to stay in this because they want a better world, they can envision they see it in their classroom. So you know, it was amazing to me that so many people left early child care, because when you are in the classroom, you see the joy that they experience in in real time. If anyone has a story, they want to share very quickly, I have 57 seconds for my outro.

Monica Ramirez  37:29

I have, it’s a story sort of, you know, I live in rural America, I come from the migrant farm worker community. And I think that we talk about the divides, there’s often discussion about the divide between rural and urban. And, for me, it’s important to tell the story of what it means to be a good neighbor. And what we understand in rural America is what it means to be a good neighbor. And that being a good neighbor is about love. And being a good neighbor is about care. And so I think that if we have an opportunity to unite across one thing and bring urban and rural closer together, it will be through this issue.

Gloria Riviera  38:10

Oh my goodness, that’s right. That gave me chills, and I want to say thank you to all the neighbors that are driving my children, here and there so that I can be with all of you. I want to say thank you again to Caring Across Generations for making this discussion possible. Thank you to neighborhood villages for CO creating this podcast with Lemonada media that I get to host and thank you, especially to the three of you, our guests who are here today sharing your expertise. Lisa Daly, Monica Ramirez and Jenn Stow, thank you so much I’m so honored to be on this stage and share this conversation with you. Thank you so much.

Gloria Riviera  39:06

No One Is Coming To Save Us is a Lemonada Original produced with Neighborhood Villages. The show is produced by Kyle Shiely and Martin Macias. Our audio engineer is Noah Smith. Music is by Hannis Brown. Our VP of weekly content is Steve Nelson. Our executive producers are Stephanie Wittels Wachs and Jessica Cordova Kramer along with me Gloria Riviera. If you like the show and you believe what we are doing is important. Please help others find us by leaving us a reading and writing us a review. And most importantly, by telling your friends. Follow No One Is Coming To Save Us wherever you get your podcasts or listen ad free on Amazon music with your Prime membership. Thanks for listening, and we'll be back next week. Until then, hang in there. You can do this.

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