New Report Spotlights the Impact of the Child Care Crisis in California
The infant and toddler child care crisis holds economic implications for parents, employers, and taxpayers
“When we support what works for disadvantaged children, we put them—and our country—on a safer path. High-quality child care is integral to ensuring our kids get the best start possible.”
Seaside Chief of Police Abdul Pridgen’s statement was the topline message of a virtual report release event on December 9th. The event gathered business leaders, law enforcement, and retired military to release a new report entitled, “Want to Strengthen California’s Economy? Fix the Child Care Crisis.” Policymakers and early learning experts also joined the panel to offer their expertise and experience around the topic.
The panel featured California State Senator Connie Leyva, Melissa Stafford Jones, Executive Director of First 5 Association of California, Laura Parmer-Lohan, Chief of Staff with Amgen, Rear Admiral (Ret.) Frank Ponds, U.S. Navy, Seaside Police Chief Abdul Pridgen, Sandra Bishop, Research Director with Council for a Strong America, and Shelly Masur, California State Director with Council for a Strong America.
The panelists discussed findings from the report which described the crisis that stems from insufficient accessible, affordable, and high-quality childcare for parents of young children.
In California, there are approximately 2.5 million children under the age of four representing thirteen percent of our nation’s young children. The need for infant and toddler child care in the state is also informed by close to 1.2 million single working parent households, representing thirty percent of the total working households in California. Additionally, the recently released California Master Plan for Early Learning and Care shared that twenty-two of California’s fifty-eight counties have ninety percent or more unmet needs for infants and toddlers who are income-eligible.
Affordability is another issue. Infant and toddler child care services in California average between $11,718 and $17,384. Compared to college tuition in California, which on average costs $8,261, the cost of child care for working low-income parents, single parents, or parents who have been deeply affected by our health and economic crisis, child care costs are implausible.
Informed by the lack of access and high cost of child care, parents are often forced to create patchwork systems to meet their child care needs. Infants and toddlers might care for one parent one day, a grandparent/caregiver another day, and a child care provider on another. This patchwork child care reality that families face, can lead to instability and stress for all involved in this ecosystem.
“The workforce we have at Amgen is extremely talented,” Laura Parmer-Lohan, Chief of Staff at Amgen shared. “They’re driven, they’re well equipped and they thrive in our company as well as our overall workforce but the fact remains that our staff isn’t going to be able to do their best work if they’re worried about what’s happening with our kids while they’re at work. So with that, I think it is important that we all need to advocate for change.”
As Parmer-Lohan detailed, the stakes are also high for employers, many of which have been devastated by the pandemic, who accrue tremendous costs as a result of inadequate child care. As found in the report, the lack of reliable child care for working parents of young children, up to age 3, could come to $6.8 to $9.1 billion in annual costs for California.
The panel also discussed how advocating for investments in child care programs will benefit California, its children, and its future. Child care programs give children the tools they need to grow developmentally and acquire social and emotional skills that will help them succeed in academia and in the professional world.
“We know that child care is education,” As Senator Connie Leyva indicated. “I have a granddaughter who is 14 months old and she is learning all kinds of great things at daycare while her mom and dad are at work. So we have got to make sure that we think of our youngest individuals because they will be our future leaders.”
High-quality child care can also positively impact long-term health outcomes. Rear Admiral Ponds expanded on this point from the angle of national security. “As a member of Mission: Readiness I believe that a commitment to quality child care is a commitment to a solid education and good health. The health and welfare of our youth are directly linked to our national security interests. So we must commit and continue to recommit our efforts and our resources to ensure that our armed forces have a pool of healthy and skilled candidates who are eligible and ready to serve our country when the time comes.”
The economic impacts of the California child care crisis also affect taxpayers. Taxpayers lose an average of $630 per working parent in lower income tax and sales tax revenue. In aggregate, this amounts to $7 billion each year.
Considering the enormity of this issue in California, what can advocates do to help?
“First the California Master Plan for Early Learning. We must work together to ensure this plan is implemented immediately and prioritized in any policy discussions,” explained Melissa Stafford Jones, Executive Director of First 5 Association of California. “But we can’t stop there. We still need to push together for the expansion of infant and toddler care, and must also better connect and integrate early learning with health, child development, and family strengthening services that so clearly have an impact on a child’s ability to learn. And ensure that the plan is implemented in a way that addresses and accounts for the growing racial disparities across our communities.”
In short, the panel discussion highlighted that improving access to and quality of child care programs must be a priority for lawmakers. A strong California child care system will strengthen its workforce and make sure the economy prospers, while also paying dividends in terms of public safety and national security.
Video of the full event is available below, and you can read the full report here.
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