Part of the Recovery Issue of The Highlight, our home for ambitious stories that explain our world.
Cassie Norris is stuck in what can feel like an inescapable poverty trap.
Her family hasn’t been able to afford child care, so she watches the kids — ages 1, 2, 5, and 9 — during the day while her husband goes to work for a little more than minimum wage as a small-engine salesman and technician at a local shop. She’s depressed and desperate to start working again, but it would cost hundreds of dollars to send their youngest children to day care while she looks for a job. Mississippi, where she lives, has child care assistance programs, but Norris says she would have to already be working to qualify. You can see the conundrum: Given their finances, she can’t buy herself that time.
“One week of child care would completely change our entire…