Have a Heart for Kids Day 2020

Tacoma’s Kelly Blucher speaks up for access to child care

Adam 05/15/19


Tacoma's Kelly Blucher at the state capitol with her three children

Kelly Blucher has learned that raising one’s voice is easy; it’s fun; it’s necessary; and it gets results.

Talking to elected officials about her difficulties finding affordable child care, her initial nervousness turned to pleasure and then, afterward, to pride.

“Advocacy is a lot of fun,” she says.

That’s because she’s become so good at it. 

Kelly repeatedly told a compelling and emotional personal story of her difficulty accessing quality child care to lawmakers during the 2019 legislative session. 

The Tacoma mother of three became an advocate for accessible, affordable child care after experiencing firsthand the difficulty of finding appropriate care for Kennedy and Mason, her two younger children.

She had set a goal: to move from public assistance to self-sufficiency. She had a motto: “Work harder, get further, be extraordinary.”

But because of a dearth of quality child care, her hard work didn’t always pay.

After calling 49 different child care centers, she found openings for her two young children at separate locations. Kelly thought the cross-town child care drop-offs and pick-ups were the worst of her worries.

Then something even more dire happened. She got a raise.

Though her income went up by less than $300 a month, her child care payment was raised to $477. She was simultaneously denied food and health care benefits—for a total loss in income of more than $1,200 a month. It was a high price to pay for $2 more per hour. It did not end there. When Kelly received another promotion six months later, her child care subsidy ended, leaving her to pay the full cost: 55 percent of her monthly income.

Watch Kelly tell her story before the Senate Ways & Means Committee.

Kelly testifying before the Senate Ways & Means Committee, Jan. 2019

Kelly first went to Olympia in 2018 to speak with her elected representatives about the ordeal. Sharing her experience “made me better at my job,” she said. “I could relate more easily to the people I was working with” as an outreach manager at Goodwill covering Pierce County and surrounding areas.

She has some advice for any mother experiencing barriers to her children’s well-being.

“Go and share your story,” she says. “It’s amazing how reality echoes.”

The Brewster C. Denny Rising Advocate Award honors a former Children’s Alliance Board Member and dedicated public servant. In his distinguished career of service to the people of our state, Brewster C. Denny nurtured and mentored many a rising star along the path of advocacy for the public good. Beginning in 2011, this annual award has been presented to a rising star in child advocacy at the Voices for Children Luncheon. Join us Thursday, June 6 to celebrate the work of parents, advocates and community leaders like Kelly.