Three Forces Shaping the Future of Child Care
Three separate trends are emerging in the child care industry that will shape its future. These are funding, oversight and the undeniable, ever growing body of research proving that quality childcare benefits children for life.
Google "child care news" on any day and you will find scores of articles detailing cuts on the federal, state and local levels for child care subsidies and support. As the recession drags on and municipalities and states become ever more strapped for cash, painful cuts are being made across the country.
Sometimes these cuts are met with extraordinary public outcry (almost any municipality in California for example). Meanwhile in smaller communities around the country the cuts are devastating enough to force the closure of almost all existing facilities.
Most profoundly affected are the working poor who become caught in a catch 22 situation. Without childcare subsidies they can't afford child care. Without child care they can't go to work. Without work the cost of welfare increases, the tax base decreases and we all, one way or another, suffer.
The past 12 months has seen an outrageous number of disasters plague the nation's child care industry. Far too many children have died at the hands of those who should have never been allowed to work with kids, but because of inefficient access to background records some people end up working with children even when they should not. Huge frauds have been committed in every state in the union resulting in the loss of millions of dollars that could have been spent on real child care.
Parents and are pressuring legislators to enact proper oversight and no politician is going to want to be seen as anti-child.
Lastly, there is the fact, backed by a growing mountain of scientific research, that quality child care results in smarter, better behaved kids - and that this effect lasts throughout life. The benefits to society of quality childcare have been shown by economists to produce a $17 return for every $1 spent on child care. And that's sighting the most conservative estimates.
While groups like Florida's Milk Party and Michigan's Sandbox Party advocate for more funding for child care precisely because of its societal and economic benefits, hard fiscal realities are causing budget cuts.
What will prevail? Will there be fewer child care facilities due to budget cuts? Will money be diverted from existing programs to fund tougher oversight? Will taxes increase to fund oversight and child care in light of long term benefits? Will these questions be answered on the local, state or federal level?
Its been said that there are no problems, only opportunities. Given that there are plenty of problems right now, we can only hope that some brilliant solutions are forthcoming from those able to see an opportunity.
Whatever your thoughts are for what should be done, you need to express them. Tell your clients, your representatives, the local newspaper, industry associations, blogs and every other person or institution you can think of.
Priorities will be set. Be certain yours are heard.