When economic development is discussed, child care accessibility likely isn’t the first thing to come to mind.
In recent weeks, though, that’s been a popular topic for economic development officials.
The Clinton Regional Development Corp. recently hosted a child care forum, discussing the impact that child care availability has on economic development in communities.
Before the forum, I’d have to admit, I didn’t really think of child care in that sense. I’m not a stranger to child care, thanks to utilizing services for the last eight years with my three children. But I didn’t always make the connection with that topic and how it impacted the economy.
Since my wife and I both work, and sometimes odd hours, we’ve relied on our providers to care for our children in our absence. And we’ve been satisfied with the options presented to us in Clinton.
However, if I was being honest, I’d have to admit that my wife and I have groused more than once about the expense that child care has on our finances. And I’m assuming we’re not the only ones.
There’s multiple sides to this story, though.
Making child care affordable, while also offering quality child care, is essential for growing families and keeping an economic driving force by allowing families more disposable income.
But the child care providers also should be compensated for the services at a level that makes it attractive to employ highly qualified individuals. These are people who are caring for our community’s children after all.
Creating more of an opportunity for lower-income individuals to afford child care is a nice start, as referenced during the meeting. It’s a matter of dollars and cents when determining whether working full-time outweighs the cost benefits of staying home. In some cases, full-time jobs wouldn’t make up for what child care would cost.
That creates less demand for child care centers, which limits opportunities for more working families and varying choices.
This issue won’t be solved overnight, but it’s encouraging to see some attention brought to this issue. Let’s face it. It’s difficult to find many long-term advocates for child care. Most of us use the service, but eventually we graduate out of the program and then focus on whatever else is in front of our faces.
That doesn’t mean it’s right to forget about child care, but it’s human nature to shift our focus on what is occurring in our lives at the moment. For my wife and me, we’ve graduated two children out of the daily system, with them starting school, and in a few years our youngest also will be at school.
When cities and states invest in schools, streets and crime prevention, those are easy to have a vested interest, because property owners never really graduate out of those issues, even if children are out of the house. Our taxes are being used to fund those entities, so it will forces more attention on those topics.
But child care deserves a spotlight, since it affects so many families in our community. Creating better resources for not only families, but the child care providers themselves, is a good direction in creating a better economic development culture in the region.
Scott Levine is the Associate Editor of the Clinton Herald. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or @ScottLevineCH on Twitter.