Child Care ■
One of Stacey's biggest worries is child care. It wouldn't be so bad for one child, but two is another story. Her parents say they'll take the kids once a week, but her husband's parents are out of state.
For many parents, child care eats up more of their paychecks than any other expense. In the U.S., the cost of child care can rise to over half of a single parent's income.
Maybe you rely on unpaid care from relatives. Or you've gotten creative and started a babysitting co-op in your ward, neighborhood, or workplace. Or maybe you have no choice but to place your children in the cheapest child care facility you can find. (If you're a student, here's a list of some child care assistance and options for you). If your employer doesn't have any type of child care assistance, there are also plenty of good private options.
Even among families with secure child care arrangements, child care can conflict with work when emergencies arise. If a babysitter doesn't show up, a caregiving relative gets sick, or a child gets sick, working parents face a dilemma. Often, the decision of how to deal with these situations depends on how understanding their bosses are, and even the most empathetic supervisors have deadlines.
There are, however, several options to make things easier for both employers and families.
Employer-sponsored on or off-site child care
32 percent of working parents say they would trade salary for on- or near-site child care. But employer-sponsored child care is a rare benefit, offered by only 4 percent of employers. Many parents with on-site child care appreciate being able to check on their child during breaks and not having a double commute, since their child care and jobs are in the same place.
Lancaster Laboratories began its on-site child care center in 1986, after surveying its female employees to find out why so many of them were leaving. The changes were dramatic--94 percent of new mothers return to the company after giving birth. Their turnover is less than half of the industry average.
Child care referral and resource service
It's a lot easier to figure out where to send your child if you know someone reputable has already checked out local child care centers for you--plus it saves you time. 17% of employers offer child-care resource and referral. Referrals usually come from private companies that contract with a workplace to help parents find the best care. Though benefits vary, employer-based referral services might include:
One company, Lost Arrow, established its own child care network as a joint venture with Ventura County in California. It sets up strict requirements for membership in the network and carefully monitors each center so that parents know the providers have met requirements for quality care.
Backup or sick child care
Only 4 percent of employers offer backup child care. But if your child care arrangements fall through at the last minute or your child wakes up with a sore throat, alternative child care arrangements could help you deal with the unforeseen.
Most child care centers won't take sick children, so if your child is sick, it often means a parent stays home (and let's be honest--it's usually Mom). If you've ever sent your child to school sick because you had to work, you wouldn't be the first parent to do so.
Even if everybody's well, emergencies happen. Your babysitter calls as you're getting ready for work and tells you that she's sick, or that she got a new job and forgot to tell you, so you end up staying home. Unscheduled absences can be expensive for employers and can cause stress for busy parents. Recognizing that child care emergencies are inevitable, some companies have introduced backup or sick child care.
Employees with backup care are:
And backup care gives families peace of mind, even when things are going well, to know that they have another child care option if (and when) something unexpected happens.
Private child care
Many churches have daycare and/or preschool programs. They don't usually require membership in the congregation to participate.
Private child care is another option. Check the links at top right for some sites that can help you find a provider in your area.
Child Care Aware of America (formerly NACCRRA) is a national referral service.
Most states have their own child care referral services, where you can search for providers, check their credentials, and match providers to your criteria. If you don't see your state linked here, type in your state and "child care referral" into your search engine.
When parents know their children are being taken care of, they have much less to worry about. Having affordable, quality child care options makes both workers and their families happy.
Child care resources
State Referral Agencies
Tips on finding child care and preschools (more to come!):