Quality and affordable child care is vital to the development of every child as it grants them learning opportunities out of school. It’s also beneficial to parents as it allows you to stay in the labor force while encouraging the healthy development of your kids

However, many working families do not have access to quality childcare. This can make raising a child in Chicago, IL feel like a relentless series of financial challenges.  For many families, getting adequate childcare is expensive, out of line with the parents’ schedule, or difficult to find.

The Challenges Parents Face in Accessing Quality and Affordable Child Care Services

In 2019, the Center for American Progress (CAP) carried out a short survey to determine how parents are making child care work for their families, especially during summer.

About 1,000 parents participated in this survey and the findings showed that affordable childcare is difficult to find, which in turn leads to compromises in job security. 

Additionally, most of the parents that participated in the survey had to make sacrifices at work and at home to keep their work-life balance due to the unavailability and expensive costs of child care services.

The Cost and Availability of Child Care

Over 50 percent of the families surveyed considered the cost of child care as a big challenge in finding the ideal summer child care center for their kids. For instance, CAP noted that a typical family of four would pay over $3,000 for their children’s summer care program

That is about 20 percent of the family’s summer take-home income, which is more than double the threshold of 7 percent estimated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Availability is another barrier many families face when looking for quality child care services. Programs are often available outside the hours which parents need care, and are rarely available during summer. Even when parents manage to find open programs, factors like distance to work and home make the care programs inaccessible.

Some parents also reported other unique factors, such as finding the ideal child care service for children with disabilities. Other parents noted that finding reliable, safe, and trustworthy arrangements for their children is often difficult as babysitters, family members, and others they can “trust” are usually unavailable during summer.

Care Arrangements & Job Sacrifices

About 32 percent of the parents surveyed noted that they started looking for summer child care services before March 2019. Summer child care services often start in June, which means that these parents started looking for ideal care more than three months before needing it. Despite this advanced planning, one-quarter of the surveyed parents couldn’t find the child care arrangements that fully meet their families’ needs for the summer.

Many working parents make job-related changes to provide adequate child care for their children. While some of the changes -such as utilizing paid vacation time- don’t have a large impact on the families’ bottom lines, other factors like working a few days or hours per week result in lower income for the families.

Child Care Policy Implications

Families struggle to access and pay for child care year-round. Work doesn’t stop because schools go on summer breaks, and only a few families have the necessary flexibility or vacation time to take the summer off to care for their children.

Policymakers can support families and make child care accessible and affordable to those who need these services. They can implement policies such as The Child Care for Working Families Act (CCWFA), and support programs like the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) and 21st Century Learning Centers (21st CCLCs). Doing this would make child care more affordable and accessible to working parents.

Conclusion

Many families are currently not benefiting from the United States’ child care system. Families struggle to get high-quality and affordable child care services that meet their budgets and align with their needs. The best way to overcome this issue is for lawmakers to enact policies that support child care systems while providing adequate access to families throughout the year. This move will be beneficial to both the families as well as the U.S. economy as a whole.

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