Child care responsibilities were a bigger challenge for many parents this year as the COVID-19 pandemic impacted their ability to find reliable, affordable child care.
Fifty-seven percent of parents said child care responsibilities impacted their ability to work during the prior month, according to a May survey by the Bipartisan Policy Center and Morning Consult. The survey was of 800 households with children under the age of 5 where all caregivers were employed.
“Those of us in this field know that it’s always been like this. The pandemic only exposed what was going on for a long time: parents’ struggles,” said Linda Smith, director of early childhood initiatives at the Bipartisan Policy Center, a Washington D.C.-based think tank. “But it was like suffering in silence until all this happened.”
This week the Dayton Daily News published its investigation of child care challenges that have that worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Child care centers and schools closed for a time, and remote learning became the norm. Some centers never reopened, while others are at limited capacity. Schools reopened but surging COVID-19 cases are sending kids home sick or in quarantine.
“The fact that when child care closed, when schools are not able to operate in the same traditional ways, families hurt,” said Berta Velilla, CEO of Miami Valley Child Development Centers. “And working families didn’t have the supports to be able to carry on with their jobs.”
Smith said employers can help by being flexible with parents and scheduling them at least two weeks in advance, as it is very hard to find child care on short notice.
In fact, 29 percent of those surveyed did not know their work schedule more than two weeks in advance.
Affordability was also an issue, with 47 percent of parents saying the most they could afford to pay for child care was less than $200 a week. That equals $10,400 a year for full-time care, which is at the low end of the average $10,000 to $15,000 annual cost for one child at a child care center.
Eighty-eight percent of parents surveyed said expanded government support for child care would benefit parents and children. And 71 percent would send their child to free pre-K if it were offered.
A proposal by President Joe Biden, which has not been approved by Congress, would fund universal pre-K and limit parents’ costs for child care.
Rachel Greszler, a research fellow Heritage Foundation, opposes Biden’s plan.
“Instead of subsidizing one preference for paid child care, center-based child care, the administration should be looking forward to help support the preferences of each unique family,” said Greszler, adding that many parents prefer to stay home with their children.
The state of Ohio recently widened eligibility for parents to receive subsidized childcare. But state Rep. Willis Blackshear Jr., D-Dayton, said he would like to see more done.
“What we need to do is to increase funding for child care assistance and expand access to early childhood learning,” Blackshear said. “I believe one of the solutions is that we guarantee child care assistance to low income and middle class families on a sliding scale.”
Follow LynnHulseyDDN on Twitter and Facebook.
See all our stories on the impact of child care challenges on local families, children and businesses: