by Andrea Ngeleka
Finding affordable and quality childcare in the US has long been an uphill battle for parents. This Spring, USC Media Institute for Social Change (MISC), in collaboration with the Stein Early Childhood Development Fund at CCF (California Community Foundation), produced a short film and hosted an expert panel discussion to draw attention to the issue. The film, titled Maya and Lily, dramatizes the devastating consequences that the lack of access to quality childcare can have on families who are already struggling to make ends meet.
Maya and Lily follows a single mother who leaves her two small children, one under the age of three, home alone while she works on the weekends. Written by USC Alumnus Xavier Burgin in collaboration with Ernestine Benedict, the Chief Communications Officer of the child development nonprofit Zero To Three, the film was directed by USC alumnus Jenna Cavelle, and produced by MISC Executive Director Michael Taylor, and Bo Youngblood. View the trailer here.
The film’s debut screening on March 6th, was followed by a panel discussion featuring industry professionals and childcare experts who discussed how entertainment media can prompt broader discussions about childcare. On the panel were Ernestine Benedict; David Isaacs, Screenwriter and Professor at SCA; Michael Olenick, President and CEO of the nonprofit Child Care Resource Center; and Gail Lerner who is Co-Executive Producer of the television comedy black-ish. The discussion was moderated by Dr. Roberta Golinkoff, the Unidel H. Rodney Sharp Professor of Education, Psychological and Brain Sciences, and Linguistics and Cognitive Science at the University of Delaware. She is the Director of the Child’s Play, Learning, and Development laboratory.
Golinkoff led the panel into personal and informative discussions about the role that media makers can have to represent societal needs and potentially prompt social change. In particular, the panelists discussed a need for finding accurate information and representing diverse points of view around big issues like childhood development.
“There is a real and silent crisis with our babies. We need one of the best platforms to help people understand what is happening, which is media, to regard their power and make the invisible visible. Make the devalued worthy,” said Benedict, who, with her colleagues at Zero To Three, uses media to advocate for more comprehensive childcare policies.
Lerner, referencing black-ish, said “Our show is usually just us going off each other’s families. Very usually we arrogantly decide that we’re the experts but we do want to show different sides. But we do also work with consultants…to just make sure we know kind of what the right answers are and to understand these issues.”
MISC and the Stein Foundation will continue to use the film to promote awareness and advocate for change.