With COVID-19 lockdowns, working parents across the country found themselves playing multiple full-time roles in 2020—full-time employee, full-time parent…as well as full-time teacher, entertainer, and cook. If that wasn’t complicated enough, many also have to balance their return to in-person work with their children not being able to go back to school and long waiting lists at daycare centers.
Parents shouldn’t have to choose between earning a paycheck to put food on the table or leaving their children home alone. If we want to have any hope of an economic recovery, parents need to know that they can go back to work and that they are leaving their children in capable hands. Unfortunately, childcare is becoming a scarce resource.
It’s not because qualified caregivers aren’t ready and willing to help out. No, it’s government regulations that limit options and keep the cost of childcare artificially high. Fortunately, there are commonsense solutions that states can implement that will help parents and children move forward.
Here are two ways we can offer working parents some relief:
#1: Reduce staff ratio requirements
Most states impose strict limits on how many children, staff members, and age groupings can be present at a childcare facility at any given time. Intended to ensure that different age groups have enough adults present to meet their unique needs, it’s created a complicated web of regulations that facilities have a hard time navigating. The result? Skyrocketing costs.
Instead of focusing so closely on ratio requirements, states should ensure basic safety standards but add greater flexibility in ratios. This will give parents more options at more affordable price points to meet their needs and budgets.
#2: Remove or lower barriers for new childcare workers
Like we said earlier, there is no shortage of qualified caregivers standing by ready and willing to help. The problem is that many states disagree with what “qualified” means. For many, it means advanced education requirements or even college degrees. Requiring childcare workers to have advanced education—no matter how relevant the degree—creates a huge barrier to entry for people who may be just as skilled. Why is a recent college graduate with a degree in journalism more qualified to care for children than a retired nurse with twenty years of experience? .
To increase the number of possible caregivers and lower the cost, states should lower these educational barriers to a high school degree or GED. They should also count current college students seeking child development-related degrees as “staff” for childcare staff ratio requirements.
It’s popular because it helps
More than 70 percent of voters across the political spectrum support allowing students to count as staff, and more than 50 percent support changing the number of staff members required per child.
If these reforms are implemented, prices would fall on average 9-20 percent for infants and 2-5 percent for four-year-olds. Families with children in full-time childcare could save more than $500 per year. This can be a game changer for rural families, children who are in unsafe living arrangements, and families who are trying to leave poverty.