PBS News Hour: How the rising cost of childcare hurts parents’ job stability

The increased costs of child care and lack of access to it is causing increased strain for caregivers and working parents nationwide.

The cost of child care has increased 220% in the last three decades, according to Lisa Hamilton, president of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, which since 1990 has tracked this and other issues around child well-being in an annual Kids Count report.

The organization’s 2023 report, released in June, found 13% of children under the age of 5 live in a household where caregivers had to make job changes because of childcare issues.

Five years ago, that number was 9 percent, Hamilton said.

The report also found, more than half of working parents with infants or toddlers reported having been late to work or leaving early in the previous three months due to child care issues, and 23% reported being fired for it.

These issues can create financial instability for caregivers, disrupt key developmental years for children, and create hundreds of billions of dollars in economic losses nationwide.

For many families, these challenges have meant leaving the workforce, or alternating schedules — “somebody works the night shift, somebody works the day shift, and that’s how they’re able to do their child care responsibilities and make money for their families,” often at the expense of spending time together, said Julie Kashen, senior fellow and director for women’s economic justice at The Century Foundation.

PBS NewsHour digital anchor Nicole Ellis spoke with Lisa Hamilton and Julie Kashen about how child care access impacts job stability for parents. 

The “United States is one of two countries in the entire world that doesn’t offer paid family and medical leave. That’s time paid time to care for loved ones when they need us. And that means that people are struggling,” Kashen said.

Issues with child care costs the U.S. economy $122 billion a year through lost earnings, productivity and tax revenue, according to a 2023 study released by the nonprofit group, Council for a Strong America.

It can also have serious impacts on a child’s development, Hamilton said. “If they are changing caregivers frequently, that can impact the relationship that they have with their caregivers. And if their parents aren’t able to work consistently because of childcare challenges, that creates financial instability in their households. And we know that children don’t thrive when they grow up in poverty.”

Despite the setbacks parents and caregivers are facing, Kashen believes a solution is still possible. She points back to the country’s investment in child care during World War II, which provided support for women to enter the workforce to support war efforts.

Without a federal resolution in place, some states have begun taking steps to address child care challenges. Washington D.C., Vermont, New York, New Jersey, Maine, West Virginia,Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin and several other states have already instituted universal Pre-K programs. And in May 2022, New Mexico became the first state to make childcare free to most of its residents, offering waivers to families of four earning up to $111,000. It also became the first to include child care funding in its constitution.

But Kashen says states can’t do it alone. The federal government plays a role, too. “This is an all hands on deck problem,” she said.

Read the full story here: https://www.pbs.org/newshour/nation/how-the-rising-cost-of-childcare-hurts-parents-job-stability