Planning for Child Care: A challenging process made even more difficult by the pandemic.
Regardless of when a family decides to enroll their child into care, nearly 9 out of 10 parents agree enrolling children in early child care better prepares them for future success in school and life. Despite the strong belief that care outside of the home benefits children, when parents were asked to rank-order the types of care options available to them they ranked keeping their children at home with a family member their first choice.
Among the other options, enrolling children with a licensed care provider ranked second. Parents also ranked smaller, home-based day care more highly than center-based care, which may have been influenced by the COVID outbreak. Hiring a nanny to provide care at home ranked third out of the three options.
The COVID-19 Impact
The pandemic has had a massive impact on the child care industry, and it is likely to continue to influence both the providers and the parents for some time to come. Nationally, care centers lost nearly 90% of their enrollment in early April when compared to March attendance. The current estimate is that about 40% of licensed centers are still closed. For those that are open, many are operating at 50% enrollment when compared to pre-COVID enrollment levels.
Only 30% of parents with children under 5 are seeking care right now. Some have opted out due to temporary job loss, and others are waiting until they must return to the office before re-enrolling their child back into care.
Many have removed their children because they are concerned about exposure to the virus. One in five families surveyed responded they are not comfortable returning to care until a vaccine is available. One out of 4 parents responded they would not return to a center unless they were comfortable with the centers cleaning and social distancing protocol.
As a parent what should we look for to get comfortable with the COVID protocol at a Center?
The CDC has published “Guidance for Child Care Programs that Remain Open” for centers to follow if they planned remain opened. A high-level summary of the recommendations includes:
Finding a new center or determining if your previous center is properly dealing with the increased needs due to the pandemic is a lot to consider and review and is just one part of getting comfortable with the idea of returning your child to care. Although, with good measures in place and well defined and executed plans, your center could be a safe place for your child to be.
A recent Yale study published in Pediatrics, the peer-reviewed journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics and reported nationally in publications such as the Wall Street Journal, concluded that “keeping child-care centers open doesn’t contribute to transmission of the disease caused by the new coronavirus, as long as they hew to sanitary guidelines like hand washing, small group sizes and staff wearing face coverings.”
While the results may be hard to grasp, the study used data from more then 57,000 care centers nationwide.
The increased safety measures are in many cases resulting in fewer open centers with limited space, and an increase in cost to families.
In the pre-COVID world, it was clear that cost is the primary determining factor in the care a family selected, despite the fact that quality is the number one thing families desire.
In the presence of COVID, the cost issue is exacerbated by both increased safety measures and operating costs for centers coupled with increased financial strain at the household level.
Keeping your children safe in a high-quality, high-safety environment is no longer an optional, nice-to-have element in center selection, it is a requirement. Without financial options available to afford higher quality care, many parents are staying at home and possibly exiting the workforce because they cannot find care that is both affordable and ensures their children are safe.
In what has been widely reported, the impact has been most felt by working mothers who are leaving the workforce at much higher rates than working fathers, an outcome that studies detail and many argue will impact her career and the family earning potential for years to come.
At a macro level, parents out of the workforce have an impact on the broader economic recovery post-pandemic.
Jump Start Finance has created a solution for families in this situation who desire, and now require, high quality care that may not fit in their monthly budget. The new KidVantage loan program specifically for child care allows parents to select care that meets the quality and safety requirements they need to keep their children safe when retuning to care, and allows them to reduce their monthly payment by up to 60%.
As quality is paramount, delivering options for parents who see few on the horizon is a critical mission. Jump Start Finance is happy to be part of the solution.