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Q-C providers say the child care crisis ‘can’t be left to those of us in the trenches’

February 12, 2019
Sarah Ritter
Quad City Times

As a third-shift mom, Takala Campbell’s search for quality, affordable child care took years.

“There were days I would break down crying, thinking I can’t do it because things are so terrible right now,” said the Davenport mother of three. “But you’ve got to push yourself and keep going, especially as mothers. Some days I work 12 or 16 hours, but we can’t really show our kids we’re tired. You still have to get them up in the morning.”

Family members referred Campbell, a certified nursing assistant at Davenport Lutheran Home, to Head Start in Davenport, which offers free child care services for families with an income at or below 130 percent of the federal poverty level. For the past five years, her three sons have gone back and forth between Head Start and home day care.

While she can now focus at work knowing her kids are in safe hands, Campbell said her life remains a balancing act. She often makes choices between going to work or staying home with her kids when she runs out of hours allotted by the state child care assistance program.

As the cost of child care continues to increase, stories like Campbell’s are becoming increasingly common across the Quad-Cities. Regulations have tightened how providers operate, and low pay means frequent worker turnover. While the number of providers dwindles, parents across the region are left scrambling to find affordable child care.

Since 2013, Scott County has lost 45 percent of its licensed child care programs, according to Iowa Child Care Resource and Referral, or CCR&R. Statewide, Iowa has lost 42 percent of its programs in the past five years. That loss in services doesn’t just affect parents; it affects the entire economy.

“If a working parent loses access or doesn’t have access to affordable, reliable child care, that has a ripple effect on our entire economy,” said ReadyNation Illinois State Director Sean Noble. “It has a ripple effect not only on personal employment but on employers’ wellbeing overall, too. Child care problems prompt people to quit or forgo taking a job. There’s a loss of productivity and turnover costs. There’s a high price to businesses, taxpayers and communities.”

A new study by ReadyNation, funded by the Pritzker Children’s Initiative, found a lack of access to child care results in working parents losing on average $3,350 in income. Businesses lost $1,150 per working parent in reduced revenue and recruitment costs each year. And, taxpayers lose on average $630 per working parent in lower income tax and sales tax.

Overall, the lack of child care costs the U.S. economy $57 billion a year, only related to care for infants and toddlers, according to the study.