Child Care is Impacting Your Bottom Line
Child care has become a hot topic throughout the pandemic. It continues to be in the news, especially here in New York, with Governor Kathy Hochul’s recent announcement to make $70 million in grant funding available to child care programs in areas of the state without sufficient child care slots – also known as “child care deserts.” (More about her announcement here.)
Child care is a topic that’s important to me for two reasons –
- I empathize with working moms who depend on child care because I was one. I quit college to get married and have kids, and years later, I was a single mother, working multiple jobs and struggling to make ends meet for my children.
- Child care impacts my business’s bottom line. The Loretto workforce comprises many working mothers in the same boat I was in, with the addition of a pandemic – another challenge to keeping children safe and finding child care.
Before I go any further in my observations about child care, I want to make sure you know I do not intend for this blog post to be a political statement. The insight I’m sharing isn’t political; it is my observation and experience with what I consider to be a real problem. Politics are dividing us. We need more of our shared values to unite us—justice, equity, and compassion.
Doing Business in a “Child Care Desert”
In one of our rural facilities in Auburn, New York, we spent time and energy recruiting people into a training program. Unfortunately, once they graduated from the training, these individuals would work for us for a few months and then quit. It was not uncommon to see the turnover of a few people in one year or less. Initially, we jumped to a couple of obvious questions. Were we selecting people who were not a good fit for the positions? Was the training inadequate, and the employees subsequently unprepared? Rather than trying to answer these questions ourselves, we decided to reach out to the employees (it’s SO important to know your employees!).
We discovered that the county where this facility is located has no daycare available after 5 p.m. or on weekends, and most of these new employees were getting placed on the evening and night shifts. The individuals would complete the training program and then receive their schedules and were unable to coordinate care for their children and would subsequently quit.
Once we knew a lack of child care options was the problem, we looked for prospective partners who were currently offering child care in the area during regular business hours to see if they would be interested in expanding their hours. We were excited to find one that was interested in expanding hours to the evening and weekend and another that was expanding their facility and could accommodate the extended hours. A new partnership began. This was a great solution in its time; however, in a pandemic world, child care facilities are short-staffed and overwhelmed. Today, this solution likely wouldn’t be possible without financial support – like the support Governor Hochul has announced she will make available.
The Role of Diapers
I’ve shared about my early days as CEO at Loretto when I began to have regularly scheduled dialogues with employees to hear them out. One of the first revelations I had as a result was related to child care, specifically diapers.
Let me share some insight for those who haven’t recently bought diapers. First, you can expect one baby to go through about ten diapers per day (trust me, there have been studies on this), so roughly 70 per week, per child. Pre-pandemic, a box of a hundred or so diapers cost upwards of thirty dollars. Unfortunately, inflation has impacted diapers at over double the rate of inflation – the cost of diapers has increased a whopping 22% since 2018. That puts a box of 100 diapers around forty dollars – so families are spending somewhere around $120.00 per month per child on diapers. That’s a staggering amount for a single mother of two to factor into her monthly budget before even considering any of the other most basic necessities for her and her family.
Child care centers agree. Most daycare centers—and certainly all of the facilities servicing a lower-income clientele—do not provide diapers for the children in their care. Instead, these facilities require that parents leave a deposit of diapers with them to ensure that there will be a sufficient supply. No diapers, no daycare.
And, no daycare and no one else to care for her children means a missed shift and a loss of a day’s pay. Now one financial burden (diapers) has caused another (loss of a day’s pay). In the end, it all becomes a devastating cycle of financial disaster.
And the economic losses aren’t just for “some mother.”
Loretto loses an employee and incurs the expense of getting someone else to cover that missed shift. And those costs—while they may appear minimal when considered as a single, isolated event—become significant over time when they are applied to repeated events and multiple employees. All over a couple of diapers.
So, we started a diaper bank for employees. Our diaper bank offers employees 13,000 diapers monthly to ensure parents can provide for their children and get them the child care they need during the day.
Child care is not only impacting working mothers; it’s also impacting the bottom line of many businesses. We need to find a way to support working mothers and their families – whether that help comes from leadership within a business or within the government. I know of many who will be grateful for Governor Hochul’s grant funding to secure a safe place for children and peace of mind for working mothers.