Child Care Challenges Undermine North Carolina’s Strength
Quality child care can help grow the economy, increase public safety, and enhance national security
Quality child care can strengthen the current and future workforce, contribute to a strong economy and public safety, and enhance national security. However, North Carolina’s working parents, particularly those with infants and toddlers, know how difficult it is to find quality child care that’s accessible and affordable, while the state’s employers know the negative economic impact of these child care challenges.
A 2020 study examining North Carolina’s child care crisis described the dire economic consequences: a staggering annual cost of $2.4 billion in lost earnings, productivity, and revenue. COVID-19 increased these losses to $2.9 billion.
The stakes are enormously high for North Carolina families. Parents depend on child care to be able to work. Young children need nurturing, stimulating environments for healthy brain development, as their brains develop more in the first three years of life than at any other stage of development.
And there are other consequences. Our national security relies on qualified young adults who are ready, willing, and able to serve in the U.S. military. However, educational deficits, obesity, substance abuse, and crime currently prevent 72 percent of North Carolina youth from qualifying for service. Healthy development in the earliest years sets the stage for children’s future success. Without improvements to the child care system, our nation risks having an even smaller recruiting pool in the future.
Further, North Carolina’s jails are full of people serving time for serious and costly crimes. It doesn’t have to be that way. Providing children with high-quality early learning opportunities can help reduce the human and fiscal costs of crime in the future.
North Carolina lawmakers must expand programs that enhance the affordability and availability of quality child care, including increased investments in child care subsidies and subsidy rates. A fundamental feature of child care quality is highly-qualified teachers who need to be adequately compensated.