Child care advocacy leader and formerly homeless mother, Clarissa Doutherd, works to get life-changing child care subsidies for poor working parents, while fighting for the future of her own son.
THE WAITING LIST addresses the impact the lack of affordable or even appropriate childcare is having on the American family, especially single parents of color.
Imagine you had to choose between food and rent, or even worse, work or ensuring your child was cared for and safe. Millions of parents face this demoralizing devastation daily. While shame is poured on them at every action taken to try to support their families, few look deeper, to the root of this current attack on American families. In 2013 on-in-eighteen children under 6 years old were living in poverty, and one-in-four were homeless. This experience along with the lack of access to basic nutrition, safety, and even preschool for school-preparedness has lasting emotional, psychological, and educational effects. One single Black mother, Clarissa Doutherd, is taking the fate of her child into her own hands. After surviving homelessness as a single mother with a new infant, Clarissa found her calling. Clarissa is executive director of Parents Voices and leads parent advocates in Oakland California and across the nation to preserve the dignity of mothers and families while advocating for comprehensive childcare for all. Now fighting for her son who is struggling in school after their own homelessness, Clarissa is also running for school board to speak for the thousands of children like her son who face an uncertain and challenging future. Family Matters will follow Clarissa over the year of her campaign for school board, while getting to know two other single mothers struggling to care for their families in a harsh and unforgiving climate, especially for single black mothers.
So, let me set the scene. The United States Congress passed the Comprehensive Child Development Bill in 1971, with Senate vote 63 to 17. If this bill had become law it would have provided a multibillion-dollar  national day care system designed partially to make it easier for single parents to work and care for children simultaneously, thereby alleviating strain on the welfare system. President Richard Nixon vetoed the bill in 1972. Instead of issuing in this much-needed support Nixon continued to slash safety net services. Black and brown communities were further ravaged by Reagan’s War on Drugs which brought mandatory minimum sentences for drug possession, including marijuana. Perhaps, even more devastating and causing the current epidemic of poverty and lack of school preparedness was the incredibly harmful evisceration of Welfare, dubbed “Welfare Reform” by the Clintons’ in 1995.
Today, 10,000 families are on a waiting list for childcare in Alameda County alone. And nationally, only 15 percent of the 14.2 million children eligible for federal child care assistance received it in 2012 (the most recent year for which data are available) due to funding cuts.1 Twenty states have frozen wait lists, and in a number of states, these waiting lists are quite long—over 25,000 children in Florida, over 24,000 children in Massachusetts, and over 20,000 children in North Carolina, as of early 2016. Studies show that many families on waiting lists struggle to pay for reliable, good-quality child care as well as other necessities, or must use low-cost—and frequently low-quality—care. Some families cannot afford any child care, which can prevent parents from working.
Adding insult to injury, parents in low-wage jobs with non-standard or variable schedules often have great difficulty finding child care options that match their work hours. Parents with challenging work schedules frequently must rely on informal child care options because formal child care programs do not operate during the hours that they need. A five-state study found that only 26 percent of family child care and 9 percent of center-based care was provided during evenings or weekends, compared to 54 percent of family, friend, and neighbor care.
One in five working moms of very young children works in a low-wage job that typically pays $10.50 per hour or less.3 In this landscape these single mothers are often either pushed out of working or forced to make potentially harmful compromises in order to keep working. In a recent survey by Parents Voices Oakland, overwhelmingly parents said that they chose family, friends, or neighbor care because there was no other choice. A few even reported dropping their children at the park during work hours.
In 2013, 5,975,717 children under 6 years old lived below Federal Poverty Level. In other words, more than one in four children under 6 years old lived below Federal Poverty Level. The same year, estimates showed that 1,266,605 or 1-in-18 children under age 6 identified as homeless. And in California, 9.1% of our children under 6 are homeless.
1 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Human Services Policy, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, Estimates of Child Care Eligibility and Receipt for Fiscal Year 2012 (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2015), available at https://aspe.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/pdf/153591/ChildEligibility.pdf.
We are currently in research and development and in-production for a feature documentary with a small crew to develop a 5-minute teaser and pitch package.
The Waiting List’ will focus on the travesty of the lack of access to affordable and appropriate child care in the US. The hardest hit parents are demonized no matter what they do, primarily because of the color of their skin and a media-supported war on poverty, especially poor black single mothers. The ability of media to shape a person’s understanding of the world is a big responsibility. And as a filmmaker and documentarian, my goal is to open up new worlds to my audience through a beautiful and compelling storytelling that allows them to feel closer to and perhaps even connected with a neighbor or community member they would not otherwise have access or understanding.
The primary audience for The Waiting List are single mothers and parents living the struggle and leading the movement for affordable, appropriate, and accessible child care for all parents working to create a better life for their families.
Our main subject is tapped into the national movement for child care advocacy and reform and the film will have a natural platform and engagement mechanism though this audience alone. The secondary and yet equally important audience are those Americans who are politically centrist or neutral and open to new perspectives and engaging in dialogue. Key misconceptions to combat and unpack will be that of the ‘Welfare Mom’, along with the general shame put upon single-mothers and parents living in poverty in a country which provides little or no safety nets or support for families. Maria Judice will be advising and coming on as an impact producing partner at this early stage to help us prepare for engaging audience especially with our ambitious schedule.
The Waiting List’s fundraising strategy includes support from social justice and arts grants, individual and corporate donors, and in-kind partnerships that support the overall goals of the film. We have also begun meeting with potential producing partners and investors.
Marketing, outreach, and distribution strategy will be forged through the production of Perkins prior film LIFE AFTER LIFE including Big Picture Education, Passion River Films, Kanopy, BAVC, and SFFILM. Indigo Impact, an impact, outreach, and marketing consultancy continues work with Perkins by outlining impact and partners in the pre-production stage. The director, Tamara Perkins, is also pursuing her MFA in Film at Vermont College of Fine Arts – having received their most prestigious and largest scholarship – and will have the support of mentor/advisor documentary filmmakers Nina Davenport, Michel Negroponte, Josephine Decker, and Till Schauder. Tamara’s classmate, John Morrissey (American History X), has already begun providing support and guidance for the film and its outreach. Big Picture Education will development of our film’s education package, campaign, and distribution. Finally, we will explore Blu-ray and Digital distribution as part of an integrated plan. Social justice engagement goals include targeted advocacy screenings, a national tour (with film subjects when possible), developing curricula to support community, policy, and educational use.
Director / Producer / Writer
Tamara Perkins is a change maker focused on documentaries that inspire dialogue, empower and provide voice for vulnerable communities. She founded Apple of Discord Productions to produce films such as Niroga, profiling a program she founded which reaches incarcerated youth through Yoga and mindfulness, and Life After Life, the 7 year saga of life after decades of incarceration. A grief support facilitator, Tamara developed programs such as the Wisdom Project and San Quentin Media Project that train at-risk youth and incarcerated men in filmmaking as a tool for transformation. She has spoken on prison and human rights issues at agencies and universities such as Equal Justice Society, Houston Institute, and Stanford Law. In 2009 the National Council on Crime and Delinquency presented Tamara with their Media for a Just Society Award. Tamara presented a talk titled ‘Life After: Embracing our Common Humanity’ at a TEDx conference in October 2013. She will also be a filmmaker-in-residence of SFFilm FilmHouse in 2018.
Maria Judice is a visual storyteller.She has crafted a space to support authentic voices in media as an IMPACT PRODUCER. She leads the charge through the role of producer with essential business, marketing, and creative skills. She received her M.F.A. from CalArts in Film/Video. As an award winning writer/director, her expertise ranges across new media platforms, traditional media, technology, public art and subject matters left of center. @mariaajudice
Director of Photography
Jesse Dana has filmed both narrative and documentary features and more than a hundred commercials and music videos over the course of his career. Jesse’s commercial work has earned him four Emmy Awards and four of his features have received national releases. Many of his projects have appeared in festivals all over the world including Sundance, Tribeca and Cannes, including Sundance darling ‘Dolores’. See Jesse’s work at www.jessedana.com
CB Smith-Dahl has 25+ years of experience as a Camerawoman, Educator, and Producer/Director. Sample work is featured throughout personal website and on her company site Community Bridge Video.
Kevin Jones has been editing documentary feature films for over 10 years. Films such as the Emmy award winning “A Lion in the House” (2006) and the Tribeca Film Festival audience favorite “Burn” (2012). He studied film at Wright State University in Dayton Ohio. More of his work can be seen at www.kingjones9000.com
KEY HUMANITIES ADVISORS
Dr. Tina Sacks is assistant professor at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Social Welfare. Her fields of interest include racial disparities in health; social determinants of health; race, class and gender; and poverty and inequality. Prior to joining Berkeley Social Welfare, Dr. Sacks spent nearly a decade in federal service at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), where she honed her macro-practice skills in public health and social work. Her vast experience includes serving as special assistant to the director of the CDC, legislative director at the Baltimore City Health Department as well as executive director of the Illinois Association of Free and Charitable Clinics.
Leslie W. Zeitler, LCSW is a research, training, and evaluation with Bay Area Academy(BAA), and assists both BAA and Central California Training Academy (CCTA) with training evaluation, curriculum & trainer development, coaching, and more. Previously, Leslie coordinated and implemented statewide training and evaluation to California counties and Regional Training Academies with CalSWEC. She also provided direct services social work with Legal Services for Children, trained Head Start summer sessions, supervised clinicians earning hours toward licensure, and completed a fellowship with the Coro Center for Civic Leadership for public sector leadership development. Her interests range from training to organizational human service delivery improvement. When she isn’t working, she enjoys swimming, watching epic martial arts movies, writing and speaking on suicide pre- and post-vention, and spending time with family and friends.
Clarissa Doutherd is the Executive Director of Parent Voices Oakland, an East Bay chapter of Parent Voices California. She comes to the organization with over a decade of experience working for grassroots, non-profit organizations. Clarissa discovered her passion for child care advocacy when she lost a much needed child care subsidy for her then 3 year old son, Xavier. After struggling to access services, she was recruited as a parent leader to Parent Voices, where she developed a passion for community organizing, and mass mobilization for anti-poverty initiatives. Clarissa has been a strong advocate for mothers like herself who were caught in the crosshairs of ineffective public policy. In addition to supporting Parent Voices Statewide campaigns, she has worked to decrease the number of mothers in Oakland waitlisted for for child care subsidies. As a collaborative movement builder, Clarissa has forged deep partnerships with large local Government agencies including the County Social Services Agency, Public Health, and Behavioral Health Services. After stepping into leadership as the Co-Chair on the Alameda County Early Childhood Policy Committee with First 5 of Alameda County, Clarissa led efforts to refocus the group to become a cross sector collaborative which brings together community based organizations, parents and service providers to advance innovative strategies for County-wide systems change; and develops leadership pipelines for families to have increased influence and decision making power in City and County policy-making. Clarissa developed a comprehensive leadership development program, which has trained over 300 parents since 2013. She currently sits on the steering committee for the Alameda County Early Care and Education Planning Council, the 18th Assembly District Education Advisory Committee, and was appointed by City Council to be the Sector 4 representative for the Child Care Development Block Grant for the City of Oakland. Clarissa resides in Oakland, California with Xavier who is now 8 years old.