The following blog is from one of our partners, 4C for Children – a Child Care Resource & Referral Agency that supports everyone who cares for young children, from parents to child care providers, to ensure high-quality early education and care for all children. President & CEO Vanessa Freytag shares statistics and current trends that may be affecting employees in your workplace and what options 4C offers to support your team and address the issue as a whole.
Quality Child Care is a Necessary Social Infrastructure that Powers a Productive Workplace and Economy
The annual “Take Your Child to Work Day” event comes every April, creating an opportunity to show your son or daughter just how much fun you have at work. Some employers go to great effort and expense to show kids a good time – with things like Hide-and-Go-Seek with the CEO or an ice cream sundae bar on the agenda. Other employers may offer an afternoon of arts and crafts and popcorn in a meeting room. The event is a playful time that involves a tremendous amount of work – and probably a drop in productivity as well.
Thank goodness it’s just one day a year.
Unfortunately, the concept of “Take Your Child to Work Day” has become an ongoing Groundhog Day scenario for some working parents, and it’s a situation that didn’t happen overnight. According to the National Education Association, in 2019, 41 percent of pre-K¬-12 teachers held two or more jobs. Inadequate pay has driven hundreds of our region’s teachers away from the profession. Recruiting and retaining educators is a monumental challenge when teachers can find roles with more pay and less stress.
The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated an already precarious system of child care – with teachers isolating at home during a positive diagnosis, causing reduced class seats or classrooms shuttered entirely. Our research tells us that the loss of one teacher – for whatever reason – results in the loss of between six and 15 child care seats. Across Greater Cincinnati and our nation, scarce resources were thrown into a tailspin by the pandemic, forcing working parents – mostly women – to quit their jobs in droves.
According to a US Census Bureau Household Pulse Survey, in August 2022, nearly 870,000 women reported leaving their jobs to care for one or more child under 5, and more than 330,000 women reported losing their jobs because they had to care for one or more child under 5. Another 742,000 women didn’t look for a job due to child care obligations, and more than 955,000 women had to supervise at least one child under 5 while working. The statistics are similar for households with women with children between 5 and 11 years old, but the data for households with men respondents with at least one child between 0 – 11 years old are lower in every instance.
The National Women’s Law Center reported last October that there were 817,000 fewer women in the workforce compared to February 2020. Meanwhile, there were 727,000 more employed men during the same period. In fact, women 20 years old and older made up 100 percent of the net labor force leavers between February 2020 and October 2022.
The numbers tell an important story: a lack of quality child care has a direct effect on business. Without its availability, a significant portion of the workforce is forced to opt out – a workforce that supports productivity, profitability, and the economy as a whole. This mass exodus threatens America’s employers’ ability to remain competitive with our international peers. It robs us of valuable, diverse intelligence that can give birth to untold innovations and creative solutions that rely on a female perspective.
And those parents who are still toughing it out at work despite unreliable child care? By now, we know what that looks like. A child playfully climbing on top of mom or dad’s lap during a Zoom call, or a baby discreetly nestled in the corner of an office, furtively brought in by a parent who needed to show up at work but had no options. For other parents, the lack of child care means they can’t come to work at all – especially those who work hourly jobs or in industries like manufacturing or transportation, in which the option of bringing a child to work isn’t possible. And there are even fewer resources for parents who work a non-traditional schedule like third shift or during weekend hours.
I’ll say it again: The amount of missed days due to a lack of child care affects the corporate bottom line.
Quality child care is, in fact, a social infrastructure that is critical to a thriving economy and a productive corporate sector. Just as bridges and roads help us get where we want to go, it ensures that working parents can show up to work and deliver top performance while their children are in safe, nurturing environments. When a parent has access to quality child care, they are more productive, more committed, and are less likely to miss work.
How Supporting and Investing in Child Care Resources is a Win-Win for Employers and Employees
Savvy employers realize that by supporting and investing in child care resources, they are doing more than giving lip service when they tell employees that they are valued. Employers that are vying to recruit and retain top talent regard quality child care benefits as another element of a total rewards package.
It may seem like a huge undertaking, but every employer in Cincinnati has an opportunity to help solve our region’s current child care crisis. Quick wins include offering support and resources for working parents and establishing flexible scheduling policies. Larger companies may consider investing in child care vouchers and subsidies, or even on-site care that maximizes convenience for working parents.
Sustainable solutions to our child care crisis will require a commitment and investment from every aspect of our community. As employers, we have an obligation to publicly advocate on behalf of our workers to garner greater investments that yield more child care seats.
We also have an opportunity to leverage our collective strength to expand community capacity, that is – invest in strategies that will help attract entrepreneurs to the profession of early childhood education. When we invest in people with big dreams but a shortage of resources, we can be the catalyst that creates more child care programs and more small businesses at the same time.
How 4C for Children Can Help
4C for Children is engaged in several efforts to help address our region’s child care crisis. For workers seeking help with parenting challenges, we’ve launched our “Let’s Talk Parenting Sessions,” one-hour onsite forums that give workers practical tools that help them overcome parenting problems and stay productive on the job. Our goal with these in-person or virtual sessions is to offer programming that alleviates parents’ stress while connecting them to resources that will reduce missed days at work and support the bottom line of your business. Sound like something that would appeal to your working parents? Contact Surbhi Narula at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more and schedule a session today.
We’ve also developed the Child Care Careers Program, which actively recruits people to the profession of child care and provides resources to small business owners who want to open or expand child care programs. Learn how you or someone you know can launch a career in child care or start or expand a program.
An Opportunity for Our Business Community
Instead of forcing parents to play Take Your Child to Work Day over and over again, Cincinnati’s business leaders have an opportunity to advocate for and invest in quality child care while supporting parents who are pursuing fulfilling careers that contribute to society and their family’s finances. We can help our businesses remain competitive and fight brain drain by attracting, retaining, and supporting working mothers. And we can support resources that sustain and grow early childhood education and the best care possible for our kids—and not just when it’s “Take Your Child to Work Day.”
Visit the 4C for Children website to learn more.