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Supporting Working Parents Can Boost Economy, Pair Of Studies Find

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Two new reports found that child care options can be scarce for working parents in San Diego County. The good news is, most employers want to help.

Speaker 1: 00:00 A pair of reports highlight the struggles. Many working parents face tuna reports suggest childcare here in San Diego is scarce and unaffordable with no standard of quality and most employers aren't offering any support. You to talk more about the findings is Laura cone with the San Diego workforce partnership, one of the organizations involved with this recent report. Laura, thanks for being here. Thanks for having me. So for several agencies like yours came together for these reports. Who was involved and what prompted this?

Speaker 2: 00:29 The studies were produced, there are two different studies and one was produced by the San Diego workforce partnership. My organization, um, and the other was produced by the San Diego regional chamber of commerce. Both of the studies were sponsored by and also produced in partnership with the San Diego foundation. And the motivation was to really try to, we recognize that the childcare system in San Diego is struggling and is having an impact on employers and on the workforce and we wanted to understand that problem better and both help the larger community understand that problem but also inspire them to action.

Speaker 1: 01:07 You know, the agencies reported that in 70% of San Diego families with children under the age of 12, all parents in the household are working. Meanwhile, only 9% of companies in San Diego

Speaker 2: 01:19 divide onsite childcare, for example. What impact does that have on family and children? It's really a tremendous impact. Parents of young children spend a lot of time and energy trying to find childcare arrangements that work for them and their family. When I say work for them, it's is it convenient to where I live or where I work? Is it affordable for me? Um, the price of childcare is extremely high. It's about S uh, it's over $17,000 on average for an infant or toddler and a little over $11,000 for a preschooler, which is a lot of money, especially when you have more than one kid, but even just for one child. And the other factor is, does it match with the hours of my work? So typical childcare operates on standard hours. I'm sometimes a little bit extended starting at 7:00 AM and going to maybe 6:00 PM, but a lot of folks in our economy are working at very different hours.

Speaker 2: 02:15 They're working swing shifts, they're working weekends, they're working evenings, and it's very difficult to find licensed childcare that is available for those hours. So it's a big, big struggle for families. They're just patching things together to make things work. And one impact is that a lot of parents just give up, they drop out of the labor force or they're working less than they would like to earning less money than they would like to or want to. And um, it's so it has big impacts on families and big impacts on our economy. I mean, and when someone is making, you know, when their whole paycheck goes to, to, uh, pay the cost of childcare at some point, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense to stay in the workforce. Right? Absolutely not. You hear that from families all time that they do that calculation. So if you have two small children, that's a total of $28,000 or more to pay for childcare if, um, and so that's coming out of your take home pay for the most part.

Speaker 2: 03:11 Um, so if your salary is less than that or something close to that, um, or even if it's a little bit more than that, you realize all of my paycheck is going to be going to childcare. Maybe I should be staying home and providing care for my kids, myself, you know, and there are ways employers can support working families. What did you glean from these reports in terms of solutions? So for, for employers, um, there are a few things they can do. You mentioned before providing onsite childcare and it's wonderful when an employer can do that, but that's not going to be available or possible for the vast majority of employers in San Diego County. But even if you can't actually have childcare on site, you can help to subsidize the cost of childcare for your employees. Um, you can build partnerships with local childcare entities so that your employees get first preference on their wait lists.

Speaker 2: 04:04 But you can also do things, um, with other benefits like family leave after a child is born. That bonding time with parents, um, is really critically important. And employers can choose to supplement what the state already provides and also the schedules. So parents need flexible schedules so that they can be providing as much of the care for their kids as they want to and are able to. And at the same time, they need schedules that are predictable because they need to be able to arrange childcare in advance. And many, um, workers in our economy have, uh, don't know their schedules until the very last minute until, um, a few days before, even the day before they have to work. Well, you can imagine for a parent, how are they going? How are they possibly going to arrange childcare when they don't know their schedule in advance? So parents need schedules to be predictable and at the same time flexible and employers can create that for them.

Speaker 2: 04:55 And now that the studies and the reports are done, what's next? The important thing we're trying to get at with this report is that, um, San Diego regionally we have to step into this so we can't wait for the state to fix it for us or the federal government to fix it for us. Although we should advocate for more funding for childcare support for families. Absolutely. But in the meantime, local governments and school districts can help provide low cost or free facilities for childcare and that will help more childcare businesses to start up and serve more of our families. School districts can do a better job of linking with early childhood education and providing afterschool care on campus, um, so that students and their future students, um, have the best possible care in education as they move through. Before we started working with partners recently, we weren't doing anything to help parents get childcare so that they could work or so that they could do the training that we're helping them to connect with. Now we've changed that by building linkages with, um, local, um, nonprofits that help parents find childcare and we need to see more of that, um, where the, the service, the network of services for parents gets better connected and does a better job of connecting every family with work opportunities, with childcare opportunities and everything they need to thrive. I've been speaking with Laura cone with the San Diego workforce partnership. Laura, thank you very much. You're welcome.

Speaker 3: 06:27 [inaudible].

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KPBS Midday Edition Segments

Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon host KPBS Midday Edition, a daily radio news magazine keeping San Diego in the know on everything from politics to the arts.