Care Crunch: We Can't Keep Paying This Much for Child Care
Costs are skyrocketing, and it's pushing moms out of the workforce. Here's the fix.
If it feels like a significant and growing chunk of your income goes to paying for child care, you aren’t alone. The average annual cost for center-based child care in the U.S. shot up by a jaw-dropping 41% since the start of the pandemic, according to data from a recent LendingTree report.
Child care costs were already exorbitant for many working parents before the pandemic sent the industry into a tailspin. In 34 states and Washington, DC, infant care now costs more than college tuition. But the past two years have wreaked havoc on the sector, forcing many providers to permanently shutter or reduce their hours. In turn, working parents are left with fewer and fewer choices, driving up demand in areas where high-quality care was already hard to find. (A pre-pandemic analysis by the Center for American Progress found that 51% of Americans live in a “child care desert,” where the number of children outnumber licensed care slots at least three to one.)
The tight labor market isn’t helping. With retailers and fast food restaurants raising their base compensation to lure more workers, “child care has been hemorrhaging employees,” says Elliot Haspel, the author of Crawling Behind: America's Child Care Crisis and How to Fix It. “Programs already operating on razor-thin budgets can't keep pace, but in order to even try, some have started raising their fees.”
That’s not going so well either. Zakiyyah Boone, the interim CEO of Wonderspring Early Education, told Axios that the nonprofit raised its entry-level wages to $13 an hour and is offering signing bonuses up to $2,000. But the efforts haven't worked to attract new employees, and the provider has had to increase tuition by 10% for the current school year to cover the cost. That's pushed some parents to leave.
“I expect a major contraction in the number of child care slots and the options for parents, unfortunately,” Haspel says of what’s to come without a fix. “The result, quite frankly, is going to be more and more parents, primarily mothers, forced to make work-care decisions not based on what they deem best for them and their family, but based on child care pressures. To me, that's tragic.”
There's only one solution, he says: Major permanent public funding. “Both states and the federal government need to step up here, and parents need to make their voice heard.”
The Fix: How Companies Can Help Parents with Care
By Charles Bonello, CEO & Co-Founder, Vivvi
Child care issues are nothing new for working parents, but the pandemic gave us license to talk about them—and to demand solutions; 82% of working parents say spending more time at home with their children over the past year has made employer-provided child care benefits even more important to them. And yet, less than 6% of U.S. companies offer significant child care benefits.
Change is coming, though, as companies realize that investing in working parents is not just the right way to do business, it’s also the smart way to do business. By providing affordable, accessible child care for their employees, businesses can better attract and retain talent; save on the costs of recruiting and absenteeism; and show working parents they care about them not just as a number but as a human.
As a CEO and a dad of three young children, I’ve seen how the last two years have fundamentally changed the lives of working parents. It’s also fundamentally shifted the child care conversation, and we’re finally seeing positive movement in the right direction. Here are three ways innovative companies can step up to be a part of the solution right now:
Provide significant child care benefits. Parents who have access to child care are more productive, have less burnout and are more likely to pursue growth opportunities. If your company doesn’t provide child care benefits yet, use this worksheet to help you advocate for your needs to your employer.
Create a more flexible work environment. Giving working parents the autonomy to determine when and where they can be the most productive will make everyone more successful. Learn how to ask your boss for flexibility here.
Change the culture to meet working parents where they are. Instead of work-life balance, we need to focus on work-life integration. That means valuing caregiving and recognizing that employees need time for themselves, their families and their communities.
Join Charlie TOMORROW for his Fireside Keynote, Building A Family-Inclusive Future of Work, at our Caregiving & Work Summit.
Attend our Caregiving and Work Summit on Mar 25, for FREE here. You’ll walk away with practical, actionable advice on how to manage child care as a busy working parent, how prevent burnout and much more.
LOVE TO SEE IT
Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson won our hearts when she acknowledged she had struggled to juggle motherhood and a career. “I fully admit that I did not always get the balance right,” she said in the opening statement at her Senate confirmation hearing. If confirmed, Jackson would be the first Black woman on the Supreme Court.
New York’s governor and state legislature are crafting plans to make child care more affordable for working parents in the state. The various proposals under consideration would increase the state’s spending on child care to at least to $1.4 billion by expanding subsidies, creating day care centers at public universities and giving additional support for providers.
HATE TO SEE IT
A new report reveals that Minneapolis and St. Paul's child care industry is in crisis. Parents in the area are struggling with high costs, limited availability and a severe shortage in rural areas, low-income communities and for people of color.
BECOME A MEMBER:
Become a Mother Honestly member today to connect with other powerful moms and get access to 100+ hours of our keynotes and conversations, quarterly toolkits, digital summits, exclusive offers and more! Prices will go up from $95 to $295 annually on April 1. Get in now, mama. Members can get reimbursed by their employers or write off as an expense.
This newsletter was written by Audrey Goodson Kingo, Editor in Chief at Mother Honestly. Please send feedback, ideas and suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are new here, please join our conversation on parents and the future of work: