Master of Public Policy (MPP)

A champion of child care reform

Erin Robinson, MPP’16
Erin Robinson, MPP’16

“The COVID-19 pandemic has shown the essential nature of child care. We’re in an important policy window right now,” says Erin Robinson, MPP’16. “We have an incredible opportunity to do so much good for children, families and the people who provide care for young children.”

At the dawn of the Biden administration, that means partnering with grassroots advocacy groups and working to educate members of Congress on the critical need for the Child Care for Working Families Act through Robinson’s role as the campaign manager for early childhood policy at the Center for American Progress (CAP) in Washington, D.C.

“Our biggest priorities are making sure child care is affordable for families and increasing supports for the child care workforce,” she says. Goals include universal preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds, capping the amount middle class families pay for child care to no more than 7% of their income, and increasing federal funding for states to improve and expand infant and toddler care.

To get legislators on board, Robinson draws on her Heller MPP skills to translate the research of CAP’s policy analysts and other data, such as showing them the availability of child care in their district and the true cost of providing quality child care. She also translates proposed solutions from grassroots leaders into legislative language and policies.

“The biggest thing I learned at Heller is being able to summarize legislation succinctly,” she says. “We also learned a lot about cost-benefit analysis. When I’m sitting with the chief of staff for a senator and they ask me how much a bill costs, I can tell them, but I also make sure to include what that legislation would mean for families, child care providers, and even other businesses in their state.”

Robinson knows her way around Capitol Hill. Her first job after graduating from Heller was as a Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Fellow for New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, and she still works with his office today.

“Senator Booker is a child care champion,” she says. “I really enjoy being a resource for him and other child care champions in Congress and figuring out the best ways to get other decision-makers on board.”

Her interest in early childhood policy started with an internship while she was an undergraduate at Georgia Tech, working for the Department of Health and Human Services as an early childhood advisory aide.  

“I started reading about early brain development and how much children’s brains grow from the time they’re born,” she says. “It’s such an important time in their lives and it amazes me how much impact we can have on future outcomes when we invest in supporting parents and their children early.”

After working behind the scenes in her previous roles, Robinson is now taking on a more public-facing role at CAP, appearing in videos and writing op-eds to advocate for child care legislation.

“At Heller, Mike [Doonan] talks in our classes about who America thinks is ‘deserving’ of support,” she says. “A lot of times, that’s kids. If you’re trying to get someone on board with a policy, you’re more likely to get people on board with policies that support children. But at the same time, they are a demographic that still needs more than we’ve been giving them.”

“Now I’m an aunt to a 2-year-old, and seeing the way everything is an opportunity for him to learn, I’m even more motivated to make sure he and his peers have everything they need to thrive,” she says. “I’m looking forward to working with the Biden administration and the 117th Congress to push forward child care reform.”