Scores of children, parents and in some cases grandparents watched jugglers, magicians, clowns and dancers in Lafayette Square yesterday during a colorful carnival and rally for national child-care legislation.
The rally, organized by the Children's Defense Fund, attracted about 450 people, according to U.S. Park Police, excluding the magicians pulling eggs from hats and brightly painted clowns joking with children.
The rally was held to press for passage of federal legislation that would provide more than $1 billion in grants to states to expand child-care programs, particularly for low-income families, and help such families afford care provided by relatives, churches, schools and other programs. Legislation already has passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, and conferees from both houses are ironing out a final bill.
Marian Wright Edelman, president of the Children's Defense Fund, told those in the crowd that although they were there to have fun as families, they also were there "to support the efforts of millions of American parents who must struggle every day in the workplace to provide for their family and provide safe, affordable, quality child care for their children."
"School is out all over the country," she added. "Thousands of working parents with children are going to have to quit their jobs, leave children alone or juggle makeshift arrangements to ensure supervision of their children. Many latchkey children are going to roam the streets or have the television set as babysitters."
While some parents said they brought their children to the park for the carnival, others said they attended to help support the legislation.
"I have four children and I always needed to find child care," said Gail Solit, of Silver Spring, who attended with three of her children. She said that at one time she had to place one of her children in an unlicensed child-care facility because that was all that was available. "It was good, but it was a risk," Solit said.
Halbert Hunter, 8, was at the park with his grandmother, Seretha Gudger, of Northwest Washington. Gudger said she wanted her grandchildren at the rally because it was educational. Halbert, eating an ice-cream bar, had other reasons for being there. "I like to eat," he said.