A Photo Is Worth A Thousand Words
In the photo above, Silver Spring mom Heidi Metcalfe Lewis is sitting in an empty bathtub (fully clothed), responding to work emails while keeping an eye on her one-year-old daughter who was playing at a water table. This was her reality during the pandemic when everything shut down in March 2020; she and her husband both began working from home and their children’s daycare closed. Heidi and her husband, like many parents across the country, were faced with the challenging and often unrealistic task of working while simultaneously caring for their children.
Heidi eventually shared this photo on social media on the one-year anniversary of the pandemic because she was concerned about how everyone was directing their attention to returning to normalcy. “When everyone was sort of rushing to move into this next gear of ‘let’s talk about going back to normal,’ I felt like, hang on a second, parents have not been through this experience of juggling work, childcare, health, and safety concerns – all of that – just to go back to normal,” shared Heidi. Her goal in sharing this photo was to start a conversation about the broken childcare system.
Viral Photo Leads to Action!
And that it did! Soon after sharing the photo, it went viral with thousands of people sharing and liking it on social media. She received a call from Good Morning America and was featured in a lengthy article about the childcare crisis. According to Heidi, this whole experience “clued me into all of the conversations around childcare specifically. I sort of became this overnight advocate in a way for childcare and working families.” Soon enough, Heidi was researching and learning about early childcare policies while also becoming acquainted with advocates in this arena.
Through her research and deep investigation into this topic, Heidi learned about the changes to the Child Tax Credit, which the White House expanded through the signing of the American Rescue Plan on March 11, 2021. Through the expansion of the credit, the number of Americans who qualify increased, and, for the first time in history, payments would be provided monthly to families starting July 15, 2021.
When hearing about these monthly payments through the Child Tax Credit, Heidi immediately had fears about making sure families who needed this most could access to it. “I thought to myself, I hope they can figure out how families without broadband access can get registered for this. I hope they have it in multiple languages so everyone who needs access can read about how to do it. And I hope they’re going out into communities and explaining this to people,” Heidi shared.
Instead of sitting with these concerns, Heidi decided to act. She began thinking about organizations that were already working with families in the community and that could weave in efforts related to the Child Tax Credit into their portfolio of services. Right away, Heidi knew this was Mary’s Center.
A Gift from The Rita S. Metcalfe Foundation
Heidi reached out to Mary’s Center and has since awarded a grant to the organization to support the position of Child Tax Credit Program Outreach Worker, who will work to ensure eligible Mary’s Center participants are registered for the credit. The grant was made through The Rita S. Metcalfe Foundation, a donor-advised fund her father established after Heidi’s mom Rita passed away from cancer in 2014. “We were just so blessed with contributions and gifts made in my mom’s honor,” Heidi shared. “It was obvious that she touched a lot of people through the volunteer work she did and how loved she was in the Cincinnati community where I grew up.” The Rita S. Metcalfe Foundation has awarded grants to literacy and maternal and family care nonprofits, but this is the first that will have a direct impact on parents and children in the DMV area and in Montgomery County specifically
Mary’s Center is extremely grateful to Heidi and The Rita S. Metcalfe Foundation for supporting this important initiative. The Child Tax Credit has already made a difference. Just a month after the first payments were disseminated, fewer U.S. households with children reported food insufficiency. Heidi is hopeful the Child Tax Credit will continue to bring about more positive change like this.
Learn more about the Child Tax Credit here.