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Guest op-ed: Child care resources for working parents

By Susan Madsen - Special to the Standard-Examiner | Jan 5, 2022

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Susan Madsen

Most Utah families are impacted in some way by the topic of child care, whether it is for their own children or grandchildren or if it relates — even just from time to time — to families of relatives, neighbors and friends. In fact, Kids Count Data Center reports that in 2019, 54% of Utah children under 6 have “all available parents in the labor force.” Although this compares to 67% nationally, that percentage relates to over 158,000 children in our state. With availability and affordability being such critical topics today, child care impacts thousands of Utahns daily.

The Utah Women & Leadership Project (UWLP) team just published a simple document with some child care resources for working parents in Utah. I want to share some tips and tools for those currently impacted by this issue.

First, as a working parent, you can start in your own workplace by doing your research. Find and document what other companies — even competitors — are providing as child care benefits. Second, you can also talk with other parents in your organization and ask them what types of initiatives could be most helpful to them. This could include things like:

  • Onsite or near-site employer-provided child care.
  • Assistance in covering the costs of child care (e.g., subsidies, vouchers).
  • Emergency backup child care.
  • Dependent Care Savings Account or Flexible Spending Account (FSA) to save untaxed dollars for child care expenses.
  • Flexible schedules to accommodate school activities.
  • Remote work options.

And third, you can focus your discussions with your employer on the bottom line. For example, when employees are supported and can focus on work, it drives success for the whole organization. You can explain how these policies can help employees work more productively. For example, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation reports that when child care needs are addressed there is reduced absenteeism by as much as 30% and reduced turnover by as much as 60%. Care.org reports that 83% of millennial workers will leave their current job for one with more family friendly benefits, so child care can help retain workers.

Many Utahns are not aware of some general resources and opportunities as well:

  1. Care about Childcare: On this Utah Workforce Services webpage, you can search for licensed child care providers in your area. You can also learn more about the Utah state Office of Childcare and the resources they provide.
  2. UWLP Childcare Toolkit: You can also learn more about child care by checking the variety of resources on our website, including reports, infographics, podcasts, other organizations and more. Also see the ideas on this employer idea sheet: Childcare Solutions for Employers.
  3. Advocacy Organizations: You can also advocate for child care resources in your community by learning more about and contacting Utah Working Parents Alliance (UWPA) and Utah Child Care Cooperative (UC3).

One of the most important concerns Utah working parents have in their lives is that their children will thrive — even when they are not with them — in positive, educational and safe environments. Utahns love their families, love their jobs and love their communities. If more companies offer child care benefits — and there are many types and levels of this support — I believe that parents and future parents will be able to see a better and more integrated future for themselves and their kids.

Susan R. Madsen is the Karen Haight Huntsman Endowed Professor of Leadership in the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business at Utah State University and the founding director of the Utah Women & Leadership Project.

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