Child care costs are sometimes being axed in family budgets as parents scramble to save dollars in today's tough economic times. As parents lose their jobs or have hours reduced, less costly child care is sought instead of traditional organized daycare or family child care. And as parents pull their children from these child care programs to save money, childcare providers are finding themselves at risk of losing their jobs due to shrinking enrollments. Reports show an increasing number of daycare centers closing or laying off employees.
More than 11 million children under the age of 5 spend a portion of their day, every week, in the care of someone other than parents, according The National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies (NACCRRA). The average youngster spends about 36 hours a week, with the quality of care varying greatly. With the current economic crisis, the NACCRRA reports that quality care settings are even more important to the healthy development of children because in low-income families, child care may be the only place that kids receive a nutritious meal and snack. Another 7 million parents are working part-time because they can't find full-time work, and finding child care for those reduced hours can sometimes be difficult.
How are struggling families coping? Parents may remove their kids from organized programs and make due with having relatives or neighbors watching their kids, having older siblings babysit younger ones, or even leaving young kids at home alone until times improve. While some arrangements can certainly work, others may pose health or safety dangers to young kids. Recent news reports portrayed a mall worker leaving a daughter in a locked car in the parking lot while she worked (checking on her at every break) or of 5 or 6 year-old-children walking home after school to an empty house until evening.
Child care advocates are urging a child care funding stimulus be included in any federal economic proposal being considered. Additional child care funding will help more parents afford quality child care while helping to retain the child care workforce. If quality child care centers close and child care state subsidies shrink or eliminated, working parents have even less options available to them during hard economic times.