Women who are employed and have young children at home face a sizable challenge when considering childcare. In my efforts with Utah Women & Leadership Project (UWLP), we have worked to understand the issues of childcare for working parents, as well as to provide resources that could help working parents.
Here are some childcare facts to consider:
· More than half of Utah children under the age of six have all available parents in the workforce. That simply means their parent(s) work, making childcare a necessity. · UWLP research reveals there are about 150,000 Utah children who require childcare in Utah, and that number has risen in recent years.
· Only about 15% of childcare programs are licensed by the state. Though 85% are unregulated, ,many of these circumstances may be completely safe and acceptable environments.
· Being informed of the environment where your child is being cared for can help you feel secure about their well-being.
One concern about finding quality childcare is the expense. One report says Utah ranks towards the bottom of the list for average affordability. Nationwide, the average cost for a child under 6 is $10,174. Unexpected circumstances like finding back-ups or after-hours care can cause reduced work hours which often leads to reduced income and sometimes loss of employment. And higher education students add the complications of tuition costs and classroom time.
It may be easy to feel discouraged about finding a childcare solution, but there are some helpful steps you can take when working and balancing childcare. Do a little research on the best family-friendly companies and begin your job search there. Some Utah employers are beginning to offer on-site childcare. Having your child close by with an option to see them at lunch or on breaks can be a comfort for many working mothers. Other companies offer childcare benefits to help offset the cost of childcare. And although there is often a waiting list, most higher education campuses offer daycare on-site.
More and more, companies are learning how to create family-friendly workplace policies. UWLP recently released a podcast series highlighting such companies.
Being employed can be rewarding and fulfilling, but it is also challenging. Employers, community leaders, and allies are working together to understand and alleviate this burden on families. A UWLP report sheds light on what legislators can do to help. Additionally, here are three resources that can be a good starting point for working parents.
• Care About Childcare • Office of Child Care, Department of Workforce Services • Childcare Policy Recommendations • Childcare Solutions For Employers
We must work collectively as a community to address childcare needs. As we collaborate to improve the childcare landscape, families, communities, and our state will be strengthened by the positive impact of mothers (and fathers) who feel certain their own children are thriving.
Dr. Susan R. Madsen is the Karen Haight Huntsman Endowed Professor of Leadership in the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business at Utah State University and the founding director of the Utah Women & Leadership Project.