Child care a $6.4-million industry | SummitDaily.com
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Child care a $6.4-million industry

By Jane Stebbins

SUMMIT COUNTY ‹ Child care in Summit County isn1t what it used to be ‹ and that1s a good and bad.

There is more of it, said Lucinda Burns, director of Early Childhood Options for Lake and Summit counties. And it1s a $6.4-million industry in Summit County.

But it1s expensive, options are limited, and despite work on behalf of government, school and large companies, supply hasn1t kept up with demand.

3We know it1s an industry with some economic clout, but it has some sustainability issues,² Burns said. 3The lack of adequate child care affects the economy, too. It1s come a long way, but it1s not enough.²

According to a study conducted by BBC Research and Consulting of Denver,which was hired by the county to analyze the economic impacts of child care in Summit County, demographics help illustrate how child care has changed in the past decade.

The proportion of working parents in Summit County is higher than that of surrounding counties, the Front Range and the state as a whole, Burns said. Even nationwide, 56.6 percent of children from newborns to age 6 live in households in which both parents work. In Summit County, that figure is close to 75 percent. And in Summit County, 84 percent of the women work ‹ the highest percentage of women in the nation.

3Given the large number of working parents, it1s not surprising that child care is an issue in Summit County,² said BBC director Jody Smith.

Almost half of those surveyed pay between $500 and $749 a month for infant and toddler care. The cost dips, however, once a child reaches preschool age; just 32 percent of those parents pay a monthly bill in that range.

The majority of parents surveyed also had to change some aspect of their job due to child care issues: 27 percent of those working in the public sector quit their jobs ;almost 83 percent of ski industry employees surveyed said they had to change their work hours, 44 percent had to refuse a job offer or a promotion, 39 percent missed five or more days of work because of a sick child and 20 percent were forced to miss more than five days of work because their child1s provider was unavailable.

Almost a quarter of those in the ski and recreation industry and a third of those in government said they anticipate having to leave their jobs because of child care issues.

3Summit County isn1t a good place to raise children if you can1t find an adequate supply of quality child care,² Burns said. 3And it1s so closely tied to the cost of housing. That1s a huge expense. It1s hard for a young family to afford both housing and child care. It1s up to parents to juggle everything; it gets to a point you just can1t do that anymore. If they leave, it hurts the family, it hurts the workforce, it hurts the whole community.²

More striking to Smith is the cost of employee turnover ‹ estimated at $600,000 a year for employers countywide to advertise positions, hire and train new employees.

Local government, the ski resorts, school district and county have worked with the private sector to provide more slots for children. But an additional 888 slots will be needed by 2010, Smith said. If four centers, each accommodating 72 children, were built today, it would cost $3.283 million.

Those surveyed offered alternate suggestions. A majority of the parents and employees without kids said they thought employers should sponsor child-care benefits. Many favored placing a fee on new development to support child care. A lower number favored a property tax increase.

3None of this is new,² Burns said. 3What1s new is the number of families with young children, and particularly, families who are non-English-speaking. That1s created a demand for child care. There isn1t a one-time solution to this. It requires a long-term solution.²

3It1s going to take some kind of subsidy somehow,² Smith said. 3Whether it1s government, nonprofits, foundations or employers. It has to be worked out community by community. It takes a lot of work to get these things going. It depends on who you have to rally behind it.²

Jane Stebbins can be reached at 668-3998 ext. 228 or jstebbins@summitdaily.com.


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