Quality and Affordable Childcare Options for Families
Finding quality and low cost childcare programs is challenging. Working parents need realistic options for childcare. Businesses lose millions of dollars, when parents need to take off from work to handle childcare matters. In addition, commuting long hours to work and childcare centers present a challenge to families. This article will discuss various options by businesses to provide quality and low cost childcare services for employees.
Business Childcare Options
Flexible Benefit and Spending accounts: Businesses cover partial or all childcare expences
Referral system: Businesses provide a list of quality childcare services.
Consortium firms: Businesses share cost with other companies.
Private or public partnerships: State and local funding.
Onsite facilities: Companies offer onsite childcare.
(Harper, Densmore, & Motwani, 1993)
Flexible benefits and spending accounts
One option that businesses utilize is flexible benefits and spending accounts, which “provides money for workers with childcare needs.” (Harper, Densmore, & Motwani, 1993,p. 2) Flexible benefits and spending accounts help to attain and keep workers. Companies save money from needlessly replacing employees and develop a competent veteran staff. The government allows families to deduct up to $5000 on childcare expenses. (Harper, Densmore, & Motwani, 1993) Therefore, businesses and employees benefit by saving money on childcare expenses. In personal experiences, childcare expenses have costs of up to $15,000 a year. For struggling families, any extra savings on childcare expenses can be used for housing, food, clothing, transportation, and medical costs.
“United States businesses lose $3 billion annually from child care-related absences.” (Harper, Densmore, & Motwani, 1993, p. 1) The parental challenge of raising children and maintaining employment is unavoidable. For example, parents must take children to the hospital for immunizations and unforeseen illnesses. In addition, parents with elementary or school age children need to take off from work for school activities such as, report card pick-up, parent conferences, or school functions. Parents must consistently develop and maintain positive relationships with children for overall family cohesiveness. Businesses understand the challenge of raising children and offer childcare spending accounts.
In a quest to keep workers, some businesses pay the majority or all of childcare expense. “About 8,000 employers nationwide, or 9 percent.” (Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare, 2010, p.1, para. 9) Spending accounts help parents to save time traveling long distances from work to the childcare facilities. In Chicago, Illinois, some businesses have moved to suburban locations, because of high taxes. High paying jobs that required a 30 to 45 minute commute now doubles in time to two or more hours. Therefore, a parent may spend up to four hours traveling to work daily. Parents with childcare responsibilities may need to stop into the city and pick up a child. Businesses are aware of this added challenge and offer flexible benefits and spending accounts to maintain good workers.
Another option for businesses is by offering a referral system. For example, the Steelcase Company “has two full-time childcare consultants to help employees find quality daycare for their children based on their individual needs.” (Harper, Densmore, & Motwani, 1993, p. 2) A work based referral system helps parents save time finding quality daycare. In addition, companies save money, because employees avoid taking off to search for quality daycare services. Hiring child-care consultant’s help parents build confidence in the services rendered and company loyalty to workers. In addition, quality childcare businesses are marketing to companies that need childcare services. Therefore, businesses develop a reliable list of childcare providers for a referral system.
The Marriot Corporation “provides on-going child-care information and referral services to all its employees.” (Harper, Densmore, & Motwani, 1993, p. 2) The Marriott is a large corporation with several hotel chains. Perhaps more businesses will offer a referral system, because reputable companies are finding viable options for childcare services. In addition, a referral systems acts as a contact that would normal be unavailable for parents. Because a referral system is in a position to attract quality childcare facilities, daycare centers may open space for businesses. In some cases, quality childcare facilities are full or at capacity. The referral system can motivate childcare facilities to attain funding for expansion. Thus, neighboring educational centers financially benefit when catering to a families childcare needs.
Consortiums of firms
“An innovative approach to providing services and support to employees is the child-care consortiums.” (Harper, Densmore, & Motwani, 1993, p.2) Businesses share the responsibilities of childcare through “several companies to join forces and open an offsite child-care center that matches the scheduling and location needs for all employees.” (Harper, Densmore, & Motwani, 1993, p. 2) Sharing the cost is an effective option for businesses. As mentioned, some Chicago companies have moved, because of high tax rates. Hence, transportation is a crucial factor in attaining employees. In a personal experience with a large suburban textbook company, several managers commented on the challenge of attracting workers to suburban companies. Competitive pay and benefits are strong factors to work in the suburbs regardless of the commute.
An example of companies joining forces to offer quality childcare services is the First National Bank of Atlanta. “The First National Bank of Atlanta joined with four other organizations to build a child-care center in the downtown business district. One organization donated space and all five paid the construction cost for the facility, which accommodates 120 children.” (Harper, Densmore, & Motwani, 1993, p.2) Companies receive a return on investments through government-sponsored programs. Several new daycare owners have sought investors to open educational centers in the downtown area of Chicago. The downtown area of Chicago is major business district: Attaining property in the downtown area is expensive for one owner: However, several owners can successfully defray building costs.
Private-Public partnership programs
“State or local governments provide child care for employees.” (Harper, Densmore, & Motwani, 1993, p. 2) However, a few state or local programs are intended for “low-income and moderate-income workers.” (Harper, Densmore, & Motwani, 1993, p. 2) The government wants to ensure that low-income families have access to quality childcare. Parents can use vouchers to pay for partial or full tuition costs at any school. Many childcare centers receive state or local government stipends for covering tuition. The negative side of state funding is that funding may be several months behind on tuition payments. A daycare owner must rely upon other types of funding to cover payroll, food, and learning activities. Unfortunately, funding is the primary factor for childcare center closings.
“The City of Philadelphia addressed the problem of child care by providing limited tax credits to employers that subsidize child-care services.” (Harper, Densmore, & Motwani, 1993, p.3) Therefore, at tax time, parents can add the tax credit and use the refund to pay for child-care services. Receiving government funding is a tremendous gift for parents. Regardless of funding timing, parents receive some help and many parents are appreciative. The benefit of government funding is that parents can send children to quality schools. In some cases, parents can send children to private schools, which may offer better quality programs. Unfortunately, the increase of violence in public schools and poor performance has motivated parents to look for better educational options.
Which type of childcare assistance would you prefer? (Based on your circumstances)
On-site programs are another childcare service option for businesses. “Health care facilities are the largest providers of employee child-care services in the United States.” (Harper, Densmore, & Motwani, 1993, p. 3) On-site childcare has several benefits; children are at the employment site with parents. Therefore, parents can eat lunch or spend time at the educational center with a child. Transportation costs are alleviated and the need to travel across the city is avoided. In a personal experience, the writer’s mother was a Chicago Public Schools teacher’s aide. As a young child, the writer recalls observing and participating in Head Start activities. The experience is the primary reason that the writer decided to become an educator. Some businesses allow employees to bring children to work. Families can benefit when children can accompany a parent after school or during the summer to work.
In another example, “ one father, a sales person in a small retail carpet store, has been parenting his three children in the workplace since his youngest was three years old and his wife went to work.” (Secret, 2006, p. 419) Parents need to weigh the benefits of bringing children to work, because safety and liability can be an issue. However, an even greater liability is allowing young children travel home or stay at home unsupervised. Extreme temperatures and neighborhood safety can pose a problem. Therefore, for some parents, bringing children to work is a better option. However, not every parent has the option of bringing a child to work. Therefore, businesses can work with parents to ensure that employees attain quality and low cost childcare services.
In conclusion, finding quality and affordable childcare is a challenge for parents. Businesses provide several options to help employees. The first option is flexible benefits and spending accounts. Parents receive early childcare funding for partial or full tuition. In Chicago, businesses located in the suburbs have the challenge of attaining employees. However, offering funding for childcare expenses helps parents save time and money. The second option is a referral system. Some companies hire qualified childcare consultants to refer parents to childcare centers and offer resources. In some cases, qualified childcare centers are at capacity. The referral system can stimulate childcare owners to expand and provide quality daycare services.
Consortium of firms is another option offered by businesses. In one experience, five businesses partnered to share the investment of building a childcare center. Businesses will receive a return of the investment, because of state subsidy programs. Private and public partnerships are a fourth option for businesses. State and local programs offer childcare expenses for low-income families or tax credits. Although state and local program funding may not be reliable, due to budget cuts, parents can use vouchers to cover childcare expenses.
On-site facilities are the fifth option that businesses offer to workers. For some parents, allowing children to spend after school hours at work is beneficial. Parents ensure students are safe and quality time can be spent with a child. In addition, businesses may offer daycare services on-site. Therefore, parents save money and time on traveling to pick up children from school.
Businesses save millions of dollars by offering viable childcare options for parents. In addition, businesses can help workers by saving money on transportation. For example, traveling to a suburb of Chicago takes two hours one way. Therefore, a worker will literally spend four hours or more in traffic or public transportation. Another important factor regarding transportation is that a worker must have a car: In some cases, public transportation is inaccessible. In addition, several reputable companies have moved to the suburbs. Competitive pay and childcare options are benefits for drawing qualified workers. Perhaps in the future, the transportation system will help businesses and workers by providing access to jobs. In the meantime, providing childcare options to employees ensures that families can find quality and low cost services..
Harper, E., Densmore, M., & Motwani, J. (1993). New realities in the corporate workplace: Child care in the nineties. SAM Advanced Management Journal (07497075), 58(3), 4.
Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare. (2010). Child care resources for the business community. Retrieved on September 22, 2012 from website http://www.dpw.state.pa.us/provider/earlylearning/childcareresourcesforthebusinesscommunity/index.htm
Secret, M. (2006). Integrating paid and family work. Community, Work & Family, 9(4), 407-427. doi:10.1080/13668800600925027