We live in an exciting time. In our generation, anyone who wants a career and an education can pursue one. Any parent can opt to stay home and be the primary caregiver if they choose. Regardless of their sex.
We will not allow anyone to treat us unfairly. We can select our career path, get our education, and set out on our path. It matters not what sex, race, age, or religion we are. We are empowered. Still, with all of our progress, there is one thing that will stop Tennesseans dead in their tracks. Lack of quality daycare.
- Quality facilities and furnishings that are age-appropriate
- Flexible schedules for working parents
- Trained staff who are good citizens with clean backgrounds
- A system that follows has a check and balance system to watch the employees and the money that is paid to the daycare.
- Safety features such as cameras so parents can look in at any time
There are already childcare facilities that operate with these standards. These quality childcare centers work with state and federal programs to secure funding so more parents can send their children to childcare centers with these standards. Unfortunately, there are too few.
There are many cities and towns in Tennessee that have a far different reality. These places have few if any quality childcare facilities. They often have to choose between centers with old buildings, worn-out playground equipment, few workers, and worn floors. Their other choice is home childcare. Leaving their child in someone’s home that they may not know is uncomfortable, to say the least. There may be no other adults around and no cameras to record anything that happens.
There often are a few good daycare centers in a close location. They may plan on leaving their children there even if it means adding an extra hour commute time per day. However, most of the time there will be a waiting list.
The problem is, most parents want to leave their children in the same daycare center. Everyone wants their child to be safe, happy, and to learn. Sometimes the childcare waiting lists can be a year long. You will also find the costs for these childcare facilities are expensive. For two children (one infant and one toddler,) the price can be as much as $2000,00 per month. While this is an estimate from one quality childcare in Tennessee, an average of $250.00 per week, per child is a safe estimate.
In the state of Tennessee, the minimum wage is $7.50 per hour. A person working 40 hours per week will earn $300 per week before taxes. People earning higher incomes have paid time off which they can use when their children need care. However, 80% of employees making $15,000 per year do not receive paid time off and 50% of people earning $15,000 - $34,999 do not receive paid time off. Also, most high-quality childcare centers charge you for the week. Even if a child is sick and not allowed in childcare, the bill for the week is the same.
Paying daycare for one child at $250 per week leaves $100. Not many people want to leave their children in order to earn less than $100 per week. This is why state and federal funds must be utilized for low-income families.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor, nearly 65% of married couples with children are two-income families. However, the price of childcare is the primary reason why that number is not much higher.
The inadequate childcare system in Tennessee is a very expensive problem. Frankly, parents simply will not leave their children in a place where they are not ensured of their safety and well-being. Those that have no choice and must leave them in those conditions, generally do not produce at their best on the job due to their concerns for their children. Poor childcare has a direct effect on productivity.
While being a parent is the most important and rewarding job in the world, some parents want to expand. They want to use their education and spend some of their time growing in different areas. This can be done from home while raising children, or some couples manage to share their time to allow both partners to use their skills with telecommunication. However, in most cases, childcare duties consume one person's time.
When both parents work away from home, they may try to share unexpected children’s needs. There will be calls that the child is not well, or they fell down and got hurt, or that they are out of formula, diapers, or whatever. Depending on the jobs the parent has and how they are paid, taking care of these issues usually fall on one parent.
One study showed that 39% of working parents reported turning down new jobs or promotions due to their children or their children’s schedules. The same study showed 35% had their pay or hours reduced, quit a job or was fired or demoted. Tennessee records an $850 million loss in earnings annually in lost earnings due to childcare breakdowns.
The final problem we will address here is called a Childcare desert. This is when you live in an area where there are far more children then there are childcare facilities. This allows them to increase the price and leaves parents with few options. They are forced to use a private babysitter, a family member, or stay home with their children.
If major corporations want to increase productivity and watch their return on investment reach to the sky they should look at their own business. Fix the problem with childcare and plug the holes that are draining the employees dry and everybody wins. If the government wants to solve the unemployment problem and help people get out of the system, fund childcare centers so parents can go to work and feel safe about leaving their children.
Tennessee is a wonderful and beautiful state. There are plenty of jobs available. There are many qualified people to fill those positions. But until the childcare crisis is solved the state will continue to stagnate. Providing childcare that educates and cares for the children is the first step. Until that step is firmly in place and the funding is adequate, the parents will have no choice but to do what they are doing. Success as a state and success as a community is within reach. Perhaps 2020 will be the year it all comes together.
If you have any thing to say about Tennessee quality childcare, please let us know.