Anything But Child’s Play

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon from Pexels.

Marty Metzger
North Forty News

Nowadays, securing licensed child care is anything but child’s play. Only a very mature adult with the patience of a saint can maneuver the ins and outs of the predicament. Cost, availability, quality, location, and more are mind-numbing considerations for a working parent.

The barriers are multi-faceted. As in Canada, some areas of the United States can be considered “child care deserts” due to lack of space availability versus the number of children in an area. Urban communities usually fare better than rural or suburban locales.

Should a parent be forced to drive a child a lengthy distance for an appropriate setting, time restraints and added transportation expenses might make already skyrocketing child care costs prohibitive.

Melanie Gilbertson, Director of the Goddard School in Fort Collins, advised that money is always a huge issue, both for parents and child care facilities.

“The cost of child care is definitely more than that of a mortgage,” Gilbertson solemnly advised. “For example, fees for an infant and 3-year-old sibling both enrolled at my school are $2640.00 total for a month of (full-time) care.”

Of course, the benefits of her school’s enrichment programs are exceptional: chess, yoga, music, drama and foreign language instruction. The Goddard School, a franchise, accepts children ages six weeks through six years during the school year, and up to age 10 during summers.

However, Gilbertson noted, Goddard is completely full (licensed for a total of 160 with 140 attending daily) until autumn 2019, dependent on age. There are no openings for 6-month-olds for the next two years and there’s already a wait list.

Part of the problem is, again, money. This time, that bomb drops into the school’s lap.

“The costs associated with running the school prohibit paying teachers more than an average $13-$14/hour,” she said.

Consider that many fast-food restaurant workers are demanding a $15/hour minimum wage; many other fields offer even more. Child care cannot realistically compete due to operating costs that must be passed down to parents.

Because fewer and fewer teachers are entering or remaining in early childhood education, some child care companies are offering to pay college tuitions. In exchange, the teacher agrees to remain with the company for a specified length of employment (for example, two years), or to pay back the tuition.

Now let’s go overseas. A July 2018 report stated that, beginning in August 2018, all German municipal day care centers in the capital of Berlin will be free of cost to parents. Several other states were also anticipating phasing out fees for working parents.

Of course, someone must pay. The German government announced plans to inject the U.S. equivalent of $4.1 billion into child care services over the next four years. Again, this applies solely to Berlin. Parents in approximately one-third of German states will have no exemption from fees while other state governments subsidize or completely lift fees for certain age groups.

Examples cited were Rhineland-Palatinate where parents of children ages two and up have been exempt from contributions since 2010; Lower Saxony and Hesse parents were exempted from fees for children age three and higher as of this past June. Additional states have combinations of financial relief for families.

Other solutions beyond our borders are devised to think outside that Pandora’s box of both parents working outside the home. In an April 25, 2018 CNN story, author Jacqueline Howard wrote, “Finding the right child care can be a frustrating …and expensive… process for parents around the world, from New York to Nairobi.”

Prices involved in this global dilemma, says the story, vary from nation to nation. Quoting Shelley Clark, a demographer and professor of sociology at McGill University in Canada, families in lower-income countries spend approximately 17 percent of some women’s average earnings on child care. Couples spend 33.8 percent in the United Kingdom, whereas in Austria, Greece, Hungary and Korea, couples spend less than 4 percent for the service due to government benefits and programs.

In the United States, couples spend 25.6 percent of their combined incomes, which soars to 52.7 percent for single parents (according to the report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development that examined child care costs for families living across 30 wealthy nations participating in its group).

Given those stats, that leaves a U.S. single parent just 47.3 percent of his/her income to cover food, clothing, rent/mortgage, medical, transportation and sundry miscellaneous expenses. A bleak scenario at best.

Bleaker still if no licensed child care facilities are available in one’s area. Many advise parents to apply before a child is born due to lengthy waiting lists!

Viable alternatives include grandparents, neighbors, home daycare (licensed or not), a nanny or nanny share, hosting an au pair (foreign national program), shifting your schedule to part-time or work-from-home. Financial assistance might be had from applying full child care tax credits or researching your company’s Human Resources child care benefits.

Since 1978, Young Peoples Learning Center (YPLC) in Fort Collins has offered programs for children ages one through 12. Activities include play-based learning, yoga, Spanish, tumbling instruction and more. They’ve recently added social and emotional development therapy offices.

Owner/Executive Director Heather Griffith agreed that Fort Collins is in dire need of additional infant and toddler daycare facilities, a situation likely to only worsen as population numbers continue expanding. YPLC’s current waiting list is 60 but, with just four spots in ages 12-18 months, applying early is critical.

Griffith is hoping to conduct a conference by spring 2019 for realtors, licensed child care facilities, funders, and Front Range Community College (which currently has no lab school to train teachers). She is sadly adamant that the local need to serve children and families through child care is a burgeoning crisis.

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