Monday, December 18, 2017

Lack of affordable, decent child care in rural areas can limit parents' work options and advancement

Percent of people in child-care deserts in states surveyed. (Ctr. for American Progress)
It seems like a paradox, but many parents can't afford to work -- due to the lack of decent, affordable child care. The problem is greater among rural residents, creating "child care deserts" in almost 60 percent of rural census tracts, according to the Center for American Progress. The problem disproportionately hurts Latinos and Native Americans, also at about 60 percent.
Screen shot of the interactive version that has data by census tract. Click here to use it. 
The center defines a child-care desert as "any census tract with more than 50 children under age 5 that contains either no child care providers or so few options that there are more than three times as many children as licensed child care slots." The center collected data from nearly 150,000 licensed or registered child-care providers in 22 states, including child-care centers, family child-care providers, Head Start programs, and public and private preschools.

A lack of child-care options can lead parents to pass up better job opportunities, stay in poor-paying or dangerous jobs that offer schedule flexibility, not go back to college or pursue other learning and training opportunities, stay in abusive partnerships, or leave their children alone or in inadequate care, Stephanie Pfeffer reports for Working Mother. That creates an employment gap, and worsens the wage gap between men and women. Women who are able to return to work after giving birth increase their lifetime earnings by an estimated $79,000, according to ChildCare Aware of America.

This affects fathers, too. A 2015 poll by The Washington Post found that three-quarters of all mothers and half of all fathers have passed up job opportunities, switched jobs, or left the workforce to care for their children. That parents go to such great lengths to avoid paying for child care is understandable: The cost of child care for families with working mothers has increased more than 70 percent in the past 30 years, with some parents paying as much for child care as they do for their mortgage, report Danielle Paquette and Peyton M. Craighill of the Post. The problem is more acute for single parents, parents who have substantial student-loan debt, and those with special-needs children.

Good child care doesn't just help parents. "Children who receive high-quality early education are less likely to fail future grades and more likely to graduate high school and go to college," Bob Sanborn, CEO of the research and advocacy group Children at Risk, told Pfeffer. "They are better able to work and cooperate with others, less likely to end up in the justice system, and tend to be better citizens."

Some parents depend on state and/or federal subsidies to help pay for child care, but those could be cut. "If the Trump administration’s proposed 2018 budget were to be fully adopted, federal spending on children would be at least 9 percent lower over the 10-year budget window compared with projections under current law," the Urban Institute reports. "The largest proportional cuts would be to spending on education programs, which would be reduced by 15 percent below baseline spending projections for 2018-27."

Several states and communities have tried to improve the quality of unlicensed, home-based child care services to help more children have access to high-quality child care. Minnesota has a $1 million pilot program called The Rural Child Care Innovation Program to support, educate and make professional-development resources available to home day-care providers.

No comments: