This post is sponsored in partnership with The Motherhood to share information on this important issue.
I went to college for Occupational Therapy. I’ve been working in the field for about 20 years. Because I’m a working mother, my 2 oldest children were in child care full-time until they started school. We were blessed to find great childcare centers with caring people that we grew up with. Because of having great childcare locally, my kids flourished socially. It made the transition to four year old kindergarten pretty seamless. Both of my parents worked, so did the majority of our family and friends so a childcare was our option.
By the time I had my 3rd son, I was in a position to be able to cut down to part-time. My husband and I were able to work our schedules around each other so as not to rely on childcare centers or other people. With the cost of an infant in childcare full-time and having 2 kids in after school care I did the math. I actually would make more money to cut down to part-time and work opposite shift of my husband so someone was always home.
I realized, when my youngest son was around 4 years old that he was having difficulty socializing with other kids and painfully shy. I worried about him starting school. So I delayed his K4 start and found a 4 year old pre-school that was only half a day 3 days a week. I felt like it would be a great way to get his feet wet and start socially with his peers. He graduated that 4 year old preschool and has been thriving in school ever since. In fact he’s now in 6th grade, he qualified for the regional history bee and geography bee happening in 2 weeks. I’m so proud of him.
I’m so thankful that those fantastic places and resources were available to me. But I’ve recently learned that there is a childcare crisis in Pennsylvania. Working families are having trouble finding childcare.
Some of the most concerning statistics I read from a March 2022 survey conducted by partners of the Start Strong PA campaign include:
● Nearly 32,500 children currently sit on waiting lists.
● Over 30,000 more children could be served if programs were fully staffed.
● 91% of respondents reported staffing shortages in childcare programs.
● 92% of respondents reported recruiting challenges for childcare.
● Programs need to fill nearly 7,000 open child care positions.
I wanted to start my daughter in a 3 year old preschool program that was half a day 2 days a week. It was one of the few 3 year old preschool programs in our area but there were a waitlist. If I didn’t get on the list months in advance the chances of my child getting in were slim to none. We didn’t get in but I made sure I got things taken care of for 4 yr old kindergarten. That was 6 years ago and the situations are not getting better for today’s parents looking for early childhood education.
So what is causing the childcare issues in PA?
Low wages are driving the child care staffing crisis.
● The average child care teacher makes less than $11 an hour.
● Child care pay is so low that 50% of child care professionals qualify to receive
● The average child care teacher lives in poverty at nearly twice the rate of Pennsylvania
workers in general.
● Programs are unable to compete with rising wages and benefits offered by companies
requiring less specialized skills.
● Child care teachers with degrees can find higher pay and benefits working in the K-12
● The average child care teacher is paid 22% less than teachers with similar degrees
working in school district Kindergarten classrooms.
The cost of some daycare, pre-schools, and montessori programs can make it out of reach for some working families too. While you can find programs that offer families with more than one child, discounts. It’s not always enough. There are great early childhood programs out there like Headstart and Pre-K counts that can help. But many Pennsylvanians agree, we need more funding. 60% of Pennsylvanians to be more exact.
Most families aren’t aware how much government funding and policymaking affects their early learning options.
When the Children Matter Action Fund ran focus groups with families prior to the onset of this project, many participants knew that subsidies come from the government, but beyond that, most were unaware of other policy decisions that affect their early learning experience. The takeaway: decisions made by politicians in Harrisburg will determine the accessibility and affordability of early learning options in PA.
Both providers and families want to be more politically engaged around these issues, but might not know where to start.
Childcare Voters do not endorse candidates, but they let people know what candidates say about early learning issues and provide a ton of content in the Facebook group and email list. The Child Care Voter project, from their research, is really the first-of-its-kind civic movement based around child care and early learning. This movement is gaining momentum already and, for people already involved, feels very exciting and empowering!
Childcare funding and access is important to so many people. I saw the value and need myself. Now that my kids are years into school I want to make sure others have access to childcare and early childhood education. I want to make sure my future grandkids have access to it.
Primary elections are May 17. Read up on this important issue before you vote!
Will you become a childcare voter?