Parents Share Child Care Experiences

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Child Care is Early Childhood Education

It introduces young children to opportunities to learn and grow alongside of peers.  It is vital for parents to work and study.

There are 3,000 children in child care in Tompkins County and 1,150 in Cortland County.

All child care is not created equal.  It’s in homes, centers, at schools, and community places.  The quality – with both objective and subjective measures – can be good or poor or “just satisfactory”.

The Parent Survey 2016 provides the Child Development Council with insights into the workings of child care in Tompkins and Cortland Counties.  The results in large part reflect what we already know.  There are not enough good quality care opportunities, and some groups of families have an especially hard time getting their child care needs met.

Quality/Satisfaction

When choosing child care, the highest priorities for families are quality, location, hours, cost and whether their children were happy in the program.  Parents with infants were much more likely to be currently seeking care.  Happily, most parents said that they were satisfied with their care; 5.5% of those with infants, however, were dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with their care.

Paying for Care

The cost of care is dramatically higher for infants ($223 per week), versus preschool care ($139 per week).  Most families have trouble paying for the cost of care sometimes (24.1%), often (9.6%) or always (11.1%).  The cost of care was the biggest burden for single parents (58%).  Respondents most frequently said they cut back on family expenses, borrow from family members, or use a “patchwork” to keep child care costs down in order to be able to afford child care.  Nearly all of those receiving a child care subsidy said they were having difficulty paying their family share fee and nearly a quarter said they are currently behind in their family share fee payments.

Child Care and Work

Child care is essential for parents who work or study.  Its availability and reliability can have a profound impact on parents’ ability to be fully present in their work.   Only a third of the parents surveyed stated that child care did not impact their work.  The impact on work centered primarily on work hours with 40.6% of respondents saying they had to leave early, 38.1% had to call out of work, and 30.8% saying they arrived to work late.  Other issues were not returning to work, worrying, having to work part-time or taking a second job, and taking paid time off.  Care for a sick child, during school breaks, hours and transportation to care were also issues parents faced.

The most frequently mentioned employer support for child care included    employers allowing them to work from home when their child is sick (29.6%).  Nearly 1 in 5 respondents said their employer offered paternity leave and financial assistance to pay for child care.  Flex time, bringing their child to work, and maternity leave were also mentioned.  However, only a minority of respondents said their employer offered child care support options.

The Good News

In many important ways, the preschool years determine our collective futures.  Children learn and eventually put that to use in a productive way in the community.  Parents study and work so they can support the most basic of family needs.  Communities are enriched by more engagement and economic vitality.  When child care becomes necessary for families, quality child care becomes critical for children.  If done well, child care benefits us all.

FULL REPORT