MOUNT VERNON — The results of a recent survey reinforce what parents, employers, and economic development professionals have known anecdotally for quite a while: lack of available child care affects the county’s workforce.
“It’s not so much pay anymore that are barriers to being in the workforce,” Julia Greenich-Suggs, economic development coordinator with the Area Development Foundation, said. “It’s child care, it’s housing.”
Earlier this year, the ADF distributed surveys to the county’s top 25 employers. The public participated in the survey through social media and ADF partner organizations.
Fifty-eight percent of the respondents said they have someone in their family who cannot work full time due to child care demands.
Fifty-five percent said they have considered leaving their job due to child care needs.
The survey represents 559 children, 187 of whom are ages 6 years to 10. Fifty are age 11 to 14.
“When we look at child care [needs] there, it’s going to be before and after school,” Suggs said.
Suggs said the biggest need is for ages 1 month to 3 years and 3 years to 5 years. Those categories represent 156 and 163 children, respectively.
“A lot of those folks who have infants and toddlers are the ones taking time out of the workforce,” she said.
“Many daycares have wait lists. We’ve had to get creative by utilizing 4 different sitters through the week. It has thankfully worked out for us so I can still work, but I know other parents who have had to choose between work and childcare because there isn’t enough dependable childcare in the area.” –Survey respondent
According to survey respondents, a spouse or family members provides the majority of child care (37.1%). Licensed centers account for 23% with an additional 3.8% in licensed family care in someone else’s home. Twenty-two percent of respondents rely on unlicensed family provide in another home.
There are currently 986 spots in licensed child care (centers and in-home providers) in the county.
What do all of these numbers mean?
“We need to create 1,822 new child care spots,” ADF Vice President Sam Filkins said. “We only have 986. We need that, plus double.”
The following graphic shows the workforce math.
Suggs said providing licensed child care is difficult.
“Safety is the highest priority for parents when looking for child care,” she said. “Licensed care is the only way to regulate safety.”
Licensed care is difficult to provide for several reasons:
•Reporting and documentation
“As a full-time working mother, it is imperative that we have affordable, dependable, quality child care to remain in the workforce. Child care expenses almost exceed the monthly cost of my home, and one unexpected and unpaid week off would force me to choose between my job or the care of my child. Neither of which would have a good outcome, as I am a single parent living off of one income.” — Survey respondent
Affordability is the second-highest priority for parents, but affordability is difficult due to legally required teacher/child ratios and what Suggs called ethical wages.
According to the ADF, affordable child care should not exceed 10% of a monthly income.
To be under 10% of the $61,000 median household income in Knox County, child care must cost less than $115/per week. Survey results show the average weekly cost per child is $175.
A workforce needs assessment conducted by Thomas P. Miller and Associates reported that the top 10 employers in the county did not pay what is considered a livable wage for entry-level positions.
Suggs said that for many Knox County workers, a livable wage means about $4 to $5 more per hour.
“You can start to see why someone might opt out of the workforce if they are making just enough to cover child care,” Filkins said.
Identifying the need for child care is the easy part. Solving the problem is more challenging.
Filkins said the next step is to find ways to create new child care spots. Solutions include the following:
•Creating new/expanded licensed child care centers
•Reducing obstacles to licensed in-home child care to provide more spots
•Converting part-time preschool spots to full-time preschool/pre-K
•Au Pair or similar in-home options
•Latch-key programs in the schools
“Please help us working parents find a solution to needing childcare. It is scary when needing to work, but not being able to find a sitter. Please, please help us.” — Survey respondent
“But really it takes everyone,” Filkins told those attending a workforce needs assessment presentation on May 3. “There’s no single shot that is going to fix things.”
He asked those present to start momentum by alerting ADF if they know of a building or site that would be a good fit for a child care center or they know of someone interested in starting child care in their home.
Filkins told Knox Pages on May 19 that as individuals come forward with their ideas and suggestions, he and Suggs are starting to have conversations with employers and other potential partners.
In addition to the local May 3 presentation, the two presented their findings last week to the Ohio Legislature’s Study Committee on Public-funded Child Care and Step Up to Quality Program.
The committee, tasked with coming up with solutions to child care, previously heard arguments as to why child care is important for the children and parents.
“Our argument was that it’s important for the economy. We told them why it’s important from a workforce development aspect,” Filkins said.
Filkins said calculations show that 333 supermarket/grocery store workers entering the workforce because of a child care solution create $13 million in earnings a year. Nine million is in direct income taxes; the remaining $4 million stems from 413 ancillary jobs created because the workers spend their money in restaurants, on transportation, and other services.
The auto parts manufacturing and nursing care facility sectors would create even more revenue because those positions typically earn a higher wage.