Resources and ideas to help companies overcome daycare dilemmas for working parents.
Safe and reliable childcare options are an essential component to ensuring a healthy workforce of working parents. Even before the pandemic, the challenges associated with obtaining and affording childcare were rising. The post-pandemic environment now has already strained childcare centers and home daycare professionals in need of more assistance to keep their essential services available and affordable.
What are the challenges childcare centers/home daycares face today?
One of the greatest issues has been obtaining enough qualified staff. This shouldn’t be a surprise as nearly every business currently has a “now hiring” sign in front of their building or multiple open positions on one (or more) online job boards. Finding and retaining employees to work within childcare centers is prime to these businesses surviving. The staff-to-child ratio ensures there are enough staff to adequately (and legally) remain open. If a childcare center loses staff below the acceptable ratio, they not only cannot accept new children into their centers but may be also forced to ask families to leave.
A key factor to attracting and retaining childcare center staff is compensation. While pay rate increases are a positive way for families to bring home more income, the money businesses need to extend those additional resources comes from increasing their cost of goods or services. For childcare centers, this means increasing the cost of care for their current customers to up pay rates for staff.
The expenses associated with keeping a licensed childcare center or home daycare operational have also increased, along with the fees for continued training and certifications. Couple that with additional expenses now required to meet pandemic-induced sanitation guidelines, along with the increase in the cost of educational supplies and healthy food options that childcare centers must absorb, and the challenges continue to build.
What can businesses do to help local childcare centers?
Whether your company has local ownership or is part of a regional/nationwide organization, if your employees are having trouble finding and paying for safe and healthy childcare options due to the challenges outlined above, there are a variety of ways your business can help.
- Direct and Indirect Giving | Local childcare centers/home daycares typically have lists of supplies that are continually needed to maintain daily operations. Providing monetary assistance to ease the cost of these supplies can help provide some financial relief, allowing childcare centers to focus their funds on keeping their staff paid without increasing their fees for customers.
- Child Expense Reimbursement Program | Offered in addition to a Flexible Spending Account (FSA), this program helps employees by reimbursing them for certain childcare expenses for qualified dependents. In addition to childcare center/home daycare costs, this could be expanded to include summer camps, educational training, after school programs and more. Easing the cost associated with childcare will give financial relief to your employees, helping with retention, as well as attraction of future talent.
- Subsidize Childcare with Stabilization Grants | The Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) is administering several grant programs to help stabilize the childcare industry. There are multiple grants available, each with varying eligibility requirements and monetary relief options. Visit MN DHS’ Child Care Stabilization Grants webpage for full details.
- Involve the Community | Form or find a local coalition or task force that pools resources to work collaboratively toward the same goal and join others affected by similar childcare challenges. Invite other businesses to join in creating a solution that will positively impact many and amplify the message surrounding this issue to bring more awareness in your local community.
- Become a Childcare Provider | Some employers have found the best solution is to open a childcare center on site exclusively for employees. While this approach may feel suited for larger companies, there are employers of all sizes that have made this a viable solution to the challenge. Additionally, there are tremendous resources available to businesses who may want to explore this as an option for their work site. One organization with a wide array of helpful information is First Children’s Finance. Their specialists can help your business with exploring this option through:
- Coordinating an employee childcare needs survey
- Reviewing the childcare space and capacity options at your work site
- Connect your business with others who have implemented this solution
- Help with efforts to add more childcare options for your employees
Solving the daycare dilemma for working parents is not an easy fix. However, partnering with other businesses, government agencies, and specialty organizations can be a great way to bring awareness to the issue and find a solution that will create more sustainable and consistent childcare options. There are enough challenges to building a workforce in today’s hiring climate and safe, reliable childcare should be a solvable one.
If your business would like to connect with our employment experts about our workforce solutions, we invite you to contact us for a conversation about your business challenges to see if we can help.