Our Community: Q&A with Mary Ignatius

Jess Eagle

The Stronger Calif♀rnia Advocates Network is an innovative collaboration of 50+ nonprofit and advocacy organizations across the state that work together to break down barriers that keep women from achieving economic security. Founded and led by Equal Rights Advocates, and working in partnership with the California Legislative Women’s Caucus, the Network promotes legislation and policy reform to help California women and families.

In this Q&A series, we’ll hear from advocates at the organizations leading the state on these issues.


Ask an Advocate: Mary Ignatius

Statewide Organizer, Parent Voices CA

Q: What brought you to this work, and why are you passionate about it?

MI: “I’m really interested in the political, social, and economic factors that lead to poverty and inequities, which led me to study social work. During my Master’s program, I interned at a welfare rights organization in Philadelphia, and on the first day of my internship, a community member informed me that they had more fear of a Social Worker than they did of the cops. That statement was my ‘aha’ moment, and it’s when my formal education became less important than the education the community would teach me. It forced me to examine the position of power social workers and caseworkers have in removing children from homes, denying parents food or income that they needed to care for their kids, monitoring and criminalizing poor parents, thereby threatening and destabilizing the very families we are supposedly ‘helping.’

I believe community organizing and working with those directly impacted to identify solutions to the barriers they face is the best way to go about systems change.

I believe community organizing and working with those directly impacted to identify solutions to the barriers they face is the best way to go about systems change, and that’s what I have found with Parent Voices.”

Q: What is your favorite bill this session and why? 

MI: “SB 321, authored by Senator Holly Mitchell, the Strong Start for CalWORKs Families Act is my favorite because we’ve always wanted to work with Team Mitchell! It’s been exciting to work on a policy that bridges two areas that Parent Voices and Senator Mitchell cares so deeply about, CalWORKs and child care and its impact on low-income mothers of color.  This bill will end the unnecessary and burdensome child care authorization process that creates too many hoops families must jump through to access and maintain affordable child care, the very thing they need to meet their welfare to work requirements.  The expertise of our members has really shaped the provisions of the bill which helps our members see themselves as more than storytellers, they are change makers!  We also love working with the Child Care Law Center to win policies that bring more justice to the child care system!

Q: What would a California with true equality, gender justice, and economic justice look like?

MI: Our parent leaders would be the decision makers in Sacramento and run the departments that administer the programs they have all experienced! We would have paid family leave for at least one year, real universal child care (until your child turns 13), child care providers are paid living and sustainable wages with benefits, and a parent could work ONE job with living wages, benefits, and a predictable schedule during the day that allows them to live a life with dignity and helps their children thrive.

California would also have a woman/trans woman of color as Governor!

Being a part of this network has helped us magnify child care as a gender/racial/economic justice issue and given our parent members new opportunities to express their leadership

Q: How has Stronger California helped you and your organization advance your goals/mission?

MI: Stronger CA has given Parent Voices an opportunity to work with more like minded organizations across different silos so that together we can demand an agenda that puts women and families first. Women’s needs are dynamic and complex, therefore we need a group of organizations working on a variety of issues (child care, family friendly workplaces, anti-poverty issues, fair and equal pay, workplace safety and security), because none of us can do it alone. Being a part of this network has helped us magnify child care as a gender/racial/economic justice issue and given our parent members new opportunities to express their leadership and understanding of the legislative process.

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