The importance of quality child care for kids is well-known and a point of pride for child educators. But the benefits of great child care extend to parents as well. Access to reliable, affordable, quality child care makes a meaningful difference in moms’ and dads’ lives.
In this post, we’ll highlight the vital role that child care plays in enabling parents to work, participate in their community and take well-deserved breaks. We’ll also take a look at how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected working parents and go over the most important factors parents need to consider when choosing child care.
Child Care Enables Parents to Work
Parents of young children often face a challenging crossroads: should they place their kids in child care or stay at home for the child’s first years? Both options have their merits and no one choice is right for every family. But for many parents, lack of availability or affordability of child care forces them to take a setback in their careers and reduce family income when they otherwise may have stayed in the workforce.
With affordable, quality child care in communities, it’s a sacrifice parents don’t have to make. Child care services give parents the flexibility to work, make money, develop their careers and contribute to the local and national economy. With reliable child care options, they can keep their jobs, retain ties to their community and form support networks with other parents.
Quality child care is one of the key supports that lets families and communities thrive, keeping more parents in the workforce earning income, employing educators and training kids to have flourishing, productive careers in the years to come.
How Did COVID-19 Impact Working Parents?
In the past year and a half, many things have changed for working parents as the coronavirus pandemic caused drastic shifts in the workforce and lifestyles. With many workplaces, child care centers and schools closed or under work-from-home arrangements, and family incomes often shrinking, parents had to find new ways to ensure kids were supervised during the day.
Parents’ ability to access child care was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in three major ways:
- Changing Child Care Arrangements: In 2020, almost half of child care centers were completely closed for at least some time, and more were under capacity restrictions or other legal limitations. In the face of these barriers to child care access, parents had to find other arrangements when they needed child care.
- Kids Staying Home with Family and Friends: While the pandemic at times meant kids couldn’t attend child care or school, many adults were also at home, whether due to lost jobs or remote work. For these adults, the pandemic thrust them into a new role of providing full-time child care for their own children or those or friends or family — sometimes, precariously balancing child care with working from home.
- Parents Leaving the Workforce: During the pandemic, some parents of young children have left the workforce entirely, as lost jobs and lack of access to child care leave them with few other options.
In the aftermath of the pandemic, access to affordable child care is poised to mitigate these issues and help parents return to their pre-pandemic careers. Community support for child care can increase access so that more working parents can afford care for their children and participate in the rebounding economy.
Having a strong focus on parent engagement helps build meaningful connections with the families you serve.
How is your child care center doing when it comes to keeping parents informed, connected and engaged?
How Do Parents Access Child Care Services?
Access to child care is a critical issue for parents, especially those who have low income or need two incomes to support their family. Essentially, there are three options for child care access: being a stay-at-home parent, relying on family members for care or paying for professional child care services.
Many families value the choice to have one parent stay home and care for their child, but other parents prefer to remain in their careers or need two incomes to support their family. For these parents, child care becomes a vital necessity. While some children are supervised during the day for free by a family member, such as a retired grandparent, not every family has this option.
This leaves professional child care, whether in family child care homes or child care centers, as an unavoidable expense for working parents across the country. But child care services can have costs that take up 50% or more of a wage-earner’s income, placing another financial burden on lower-income families.
Subsidized child care programs bridge this gap, allowing parents to pay less for quality child care and avoid additional expenses or leaving their kids in unregulated child care programs. When access to center-based child care increases, more children require fewer adults to care for them, meaning more parents can participate in the workforce.
How Should Parents Choose a Child Care Provider?
Given the importance of child care and the challenges sometimes involved in accessing it, making an informed choice about child care can be a balancing act. We’ve isolated five of the most important factors to consider when deciding on child care for your kids.
- Child Safety: Safety is the paramount value of wise child care providers and parents alike. Attention to security, childproofing, hygiene, emergency planning and appropriate COVID-19 procedures are signs of a well-run child care center where kids will be safe. Parents should look for a center where children are well-supervised by adequately trained staff, including training in first aid and CPR.
- Location: The location of child care is a key concern for working parents: not only how close it is to work or home, but also its accessibility on public transit or major routes. With commutes already excessive in many American cities, most parents can’t afford to add much extra time to their day to take their kids to child care.
- Quality of Care & Education: The early years are an important time of learning, so to ensure kids’ success, parents should know what signs to look for in a great child care center. Quality child care centers will have low staff-to-child ratios, detailed curriculums with lesson plans, and an enriching child care environment. They’ll offer nutritious meals and plenty of one-on-one attention for each child.
- Cost: While all parents want to obtain the best possible education for their children, cost is a factor that can’t be overlooked. Family-based child care or care from relatives is often the most affordable solution. To offset costs at a center, parents can take advantage of government programs. Daycares can make it easier for parents to keep up with tuition by offering stress-free online or automatic payments.
- Parent Engagement: A bond of accountability and trust between parents and educators is the foundation of a successful child care center. Great child care centers give parents a view into everyday activities and their child’s developmental and educational progress. Strong two-way communication keeps parents informed and reassured, while helping providers meet every family’s needs.
Engage Your Child Care Community with Procare Solutions
Child care centers are vital community institutions that build bridges between families and provide a much-needed service for parents to work. For 30 years, child care centers across the country have trusted Procare to support their community relationships and improve engagement with parents and families.
Procare’s parent engagement features help you nurture trust and communication with parents with personalized updates and videos, keep them in the loop with schedules and attendance tracking, and let them easily check up on their child’s progress at any time.
Ready to find out how Procare can help your center be there for parents when it’s needed most?