care is an issue of enormous importance to employers, employees
and the economy. In 1996, 51 million working Americans, representing
38% of the labor force, had children under the age of 18. Of the
10 million preschoolers of employed mothers, more than half of them
are cared for by someone outside the family. When access to affordable,
quality child care is lacking in the community, it becomes difficult
for employers to attract and retain qualified employees.
cross-national studies have found that child care quality is uneven
in the United States. While some children are in care that promotes
their growth and learning, many others are in environments that
are safe but provide little stimulation. This could have significant
implications for the future work force, given the recent research
on the importance of brain development in the first three years
of a child's life.
Low turnover and provider education are important indicators of
child care quality, but low wages for child care workers lead to
turnover rates as high as 50% in some states. Years ago, the ABC
recognized the need to attract and retain qualified child care providers.
The ABC identified and endorsed a promising scholarship program,
T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood ®
to address turnover, compensation, and training. ABC funding of
this program has left a legacy, triggering additional state and
foundation funds to expand the program's reach in all 7 states where
it was initially funded.
ABC has also advanced the field and created opportunities to pursue
quality by pioneering the development and implementation of national
accreditation standards for early childhood programs. With emphasis
on center accreditation in Phase I, the scope has expanded in Phase
II to develop family child care accreditation standards, which were
implemented in January, 1999. Now state agencies are beginning to
recognize quality as an important differential, and are paying more
for accredited programs.
is a growing national awareness and strong public interest in the
need for out-of-school time (holidays, school vacations, and after-school)
programs for school-age children. A 1998 national poll on voter
attitudes funded by the Mott Foundation found that Americans overwhelmingly
endorsed the creation of safe, affordable after-school enrichment
programs, and that 80% would even be willing to pay additional taxes
to provide them. But only 4 out of 10 voters believed that their
communities offer programs to address after-school needs.
issue is critical for parents, children, businesses and communities.
Working parents want their children to be safe and engaged in age-appropriate,
constructive activities during out-of-school time hours. Employers
are concerned about the impact on their employees' productivity.
Productivity is often compromised if parents worry about children
during after-school hours or if programs do not meet the schedules
of working parents. In addition, the business community has recognized
that declining test scores among school children will have an impact
the work force of the next generation.
One of the key lessons learned in addressing the need for out-of-
school time programs is that solutions get the most leverage when
coordinated within the community. No single entity can do it all,
and the entire community benefits when schools can establish collaborative
relationships with other community agencies and providers to deliver
care. The ABC has helped to establish and facilitate these kinds
of partnerships with innovative models such as the Bridge Project,
which uses technology to promote parent-teacher communication, and
Summer of Service, which emphasizes community service.
Backup Emergency Care
Working parents put a great deal of effort into finding the best
possible care for their children and aging relatives. But even the
best child care arrangements don't always run like clockwork. According
to the Families and Work Institute's 1997 National Study on the
Changing Work Force, child care arrangements fall through for 1
in 4 employed parents during a three-month period, sometimes more
Breakdowns in child care arrangements can cause working parents
to arrive late, leave early, use work time to deal with their child
care problems, or miss work altogether. There is a significant bottom
line impact - a 1996 Wayne State University study found that child
care-related absenteeism cost the companies surveyed between $66,000
and $3.5 million per year. A leading provider of backup child care
services released their own estimate that these absences cost companies
an average of $4,000 per employee each year, or $1 million for every
The ABC has been a pioneer in the field of backup care , and has
implemented over 100 projects to date. A recent evaluation of the
backup care programs funded through the ABC identified three factors
as key to the success of any program: proactively marketing the
program to employees, providing care at a subsidized rate, and making
the registration process very "family-friendly" for parents.
There are several trends in elder care that the ABC continues to
address both by creating new opportunities and by continuously refining
existing programs. Today's average life expectancy is 76 years,
and 12% of the U.S. population is 65 years or older. By 2025, one
of every 5 U.S. citizens 62 million people will be 65 or older.
more Baby Boomers are taking care of older relatives. Often called
the "sandwich generation," one in four households - over 22.4 million
U.S. citizens - currently provide care to someone 50 years or older
who is frail or ill. By the year 2002, about 42% of all workers
will provide some sort of elder care, ranging from helping a parent
find housing or paying bills to performing essential tasks such
as providing meals and personal care.
with the increasing mobility of U.S. families, many working caregivers
also struggle to care for a loved one from a long distance. A recent
study by the National Council on the Aging and the National Alliance
for Caregivers found that 7 million caregivers care for someone
from at least 100 miles away.
are beginning to recognize the impact of caregiving on the bottom
line because, according to the American Society on Aging, half of
corporate executives currently have elder care responsibilities
in their own lives, or have had them in the past two years. Caring
for aging parents not only affects workers as individuals, but also
costs companies an estimated $11.5 billion to $29 billion a year
in lost productivity due to absenteeism, tardiness, stress, and
elder-related calls during work hours.
ABC's needs assessments have confirmed that many workers struggle
with the challenges of caring for an elder. Research has also shown
that many employers and managers may not understand the demands
that these employees face since dealing with the needs of aging
relatives can be a private issue. The ABC's recent work in elder
care has been to raise awareness about the impact of caring for
elders by initiating workplace dialogues to address these trends
to support and retain employees.