Childcare Challenges – Delta Business Journal

The “Workforce Behind the Workforce”

By Becky Gillette

The first obligation of parents is to make sure that their children are taken care of. But when parents have to choose between caring for their children and keeping a full-time job, no one – including employers in a tight labor market – benefits.

“Without access to reliable child care, parents not only lack the necessary support to be able to work or go to school to improve themselves,” says Chad Allgood, PhD, associate director, Division of Early Child Care and Development (DECCD), Mississippi Department of Human Services (MDHS). “Consistent child care services contribute to better overall health and well-being of their children, not to mention setting their children up to be more successful later in life.”

Chad Allgood

Nearly one-third of parents who pay for child care say it has caused a “financial problem,” according to a study by NPR, Harvard and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. And when a parent is trying to go back to work for the first time in a while, childcare can be an even more daunting challenge.

“It’s expensive in almost any case, but it’s even harder to pay the bill if the parent didn’t have a steady source of income,” says Allgood. “Even with a job, families will often find that professional childcare is out of reach. Infant child care can cost an average of $10,000 per year, which is just under twenty percent of the median family income of $55,000. With such costs, families must depend on relatives or friends who may have unreliable schedules or limit themselves to working the most flexible hours. Once a working parent has secured a job, there is no guarantee that childcare will not re-emerge as an issue that threatens their job security. Parents with lower incomes are even more likely to see their work affected.”

Early childhood learning is more important than was realized in previous generations. The first five years of a child’s life are the most important in their development and in preparing them for lifelong learning and success. Allgood says quality child care in today’s society is a critical part of caring for children and setting them up for success as they continue to grow, learn and develop.

“For parents, childcare is essential employment support and a big part of their children’s early education,” says Allgood. “Economic studies have clearly shown the benefit of quality early childhood education, not only for today’s workforce, but also to prepare tomorrow’s workforce. It is good policy that parents with young children need access to childcare to obtain and maintain employment, making childcare providers an important part of local and state economies.”

Allgood says the childcare industry is sometimes referred to as the workforce behind the workforce. Without affordable, quality childcare, parents cannot work or go to school. “The pandemic has really highlighted this predicament,” says Allgood. “Absent childcare, nurses, teachers, police officers, restaurant workers, etc., could not go to work.”

MDHS works to address the dual purposes of promoting children’s healthy development and school success, while also supporting parents who are working, in training or in education. Vicki Lowery, Associate Director, DECCD, says the MDHS Child Care Payment Program (CCPP) is designed to provide childcare assistance to eligible parents and guardians by offering a seamless system of high-quality childcare through the Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF). subsidy program. The CCDF provides federal funds to subsidize the cost of child care for low-income families who are engaged in work, education or job training and who have children under the age of thirteen or children under the age of nineteen who have special needs.

Vicki Lowery

“By covering those costs, these families can access consistent child care that takes care of their children during the work or school day,” says Lowery. “The CCPP also helps to ensure that their children are in a safe, educational environment when the children cannot be with their parents.”

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During the COVID-19 pandemic, MDHS instituted several programs to maintain child care programs during periods when enrollment was low. These programs include paying all child care providers based on enrollment numbers rather than attendance, covering all co-payments for parents during this period, and paying a 25 percent premium reimbursement rate to child care providers.

Lowery says applicants must complete a CCPP application form. The parent(s) must work at least twenty-five hours per week, be enrolled full-time in an educational program or be involved in an approved job training program, or a combination of both. Their income must be below eighty-five percent of the state’s median income.

The child care industry itself (which includes child care centers and home-based child care providers) has an estimated overall economic impact of $99.3 billion – supporting more than two million jobs across the country.

“There is a strong correlation between child care and state and local economic growth and development,” Allgood says. “And the child care industry causes spillover effects (additional economic activity such as the purchase of goods and services and job creation or support within the community) beyond those employed in child care or the business income of those operating centers or home-based programs.”

MDHS also provides large-scale grants, through a program called Child Care Strong, to further stabilize the child care industry in Mississippi. Childcare Strong grants are offered to childcare providers as part of the US bailout and are designed to help with operating expenses for a period of six months. Any child care provider licensed or registered by the Mississippi State Department of Health by March 11, 2021 was eligible. For more information please visit: The grants are designed to help stabilize Mississippi’s child care industry so it can continue to serve Mississippi’s families.

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