ABC Programs

Child Care

Child 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.

Three 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.

The 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.

School Age

There 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.

This 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 than once.

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 250 employees.

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.

Elder Care

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.

Also, 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.

Finally, 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.

Companies 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.

The 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.

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