- Posted January 23, 2015 by
Politics Aside: Making Working Families a Priority
President Obama has brought this important issue to the forefront many times over the past several years and again, used the State of the Union to call for government and businesses to work together to help address it. As he said, in order for more people to work and be successful, contributing members of society, affordable, high-quality childcare is not a “nice-to-have” but a “must-have.”
The needs go beyond just helping our parents get to work. Because the earliest years represent a window of time where children experience the most rapid development as it relates to their cognitive, academic and social skills – skills that will largely determine their success further down the road, ensuring all youth have access to superior learning environments from the earliest age is one of the most important investments we can make as a nation.
Childcare is a basic necessity, period. And quality early education comes at a cost – albeit a justified cost. Quality of early education has a very short, straight line to its dollar value because the vast majority of the fee goes to teacher compensation. The best early education is achieved when engaged teachers are able to work in small ratios with children, and that level of care and attention doesn’t and shouldn’t come cheap. Early educators should be treated, trained and respected as the professionals they are and for the impact they make.
When we accept that the cost of childcare isn’t without reason, the question becomes: Whose job is it to help America’s families have access to, and afford, first-rate early care and education? It is all of ours – employers, government, communities.
Last June, I attended the White House Summit on Working Families and met with President Obama to discuss employers’ roles in supporting working parents. When there are tens of millions of employees whose productivity is at risk if they don’t have the childcare they need to go to work, it becomes an employer issue. Childcare’s role in maintaining a strong economy is vital, and the changing demographics of the U.S. workforce mean we need to continue to solve this issue now, and not later if we want a stable financial future for our children’s children.
At Bright Horizons, over our nearly 30-year history, we’ve worked with employers who have invested more than $1 billion in private funding to help working families solve the trilemma of finding accessible, affordable, and high quality childcare and early education. That’s in part because it’s the right thing for them to do but it’s also because offering employees this type of help truly has an ability to impact their bottom line.
Studies show that working moms and dads with access to employer-sponsored childcare have increased on-the-job productivity and concentration, with many saying it allows them to contribute to tasks not formally required of their job. We know from this research that many employees indicate they have turned down or not pursued a potential job change in order to maintain access to their employer-sponsored childcare. An overwhelming majority of parents said it was a big part of their reason to join their employer in the first place – so we know it’s a successful recruitment tactic. Not surprising, the research also shows decreased levels of stress among parents who receive childcare help from their employers.
Government can and should continue to play an important role, but it can’t solve the problem on its own, and government funding should be focused on those who are most in need in order to make the greatest impact.
There are 34 million families in this country and almost half have children under the age of 18. It’s time that as a nation, we recognize that, and promote programs and policies that reflect the realities of today’s working families as they struggle to find a healthy integration between work and life.
Dave Lissy is the Chief Executive Officer of Bright Horizons Family Solutions, a leading provider of employer-sponsored family care services including childcare. He was among several business leaders invited to attend a roundtable with President Obama at the White House Summit on Working Families in June 2014. Lissy sits on the boards of Jumpstart, an early education nonprofit as well as the Bright Horizons Foundation for Children. He and his wife Suzanne are the proud parents of three young children.