American family sizes seem to be shrinking in recent years. Fewer women are choosing to have children, and those who do decide to have kids often do so much later in life than their peers in earlier generations. While there are many reasons for this, recent headlines strongly suggest economic insecurity is one primary reason for delaying having children or refusing to have them.
And these economic fears bear merit. According to recent estimates, the cost of raising a child from birth through age 17 has skyrocketed to $233,610. And while wages have stagnated, the cost of quality daycare has continued to climb.
One group of parents in Door County, Wisc., has come up with an innovative solution to address the skyrocketing costs of daycare.
A Shortage of Daycare Workers Means a Shortage in Care
Door County, Wisc., has only 13 licensed daycare centers, and only two equipped to handle children younger than 2 years old. Given that the majority of new mothers in America return to work within two to six weeks of giving birth, the shortage of adequate care facilities becomes serious indeed.
Daycare workers traditionally get paid very little, averaging only $9 to $10 per hour. As a result, turnover is high. And parents in the area raised concerns about the quality of the care these workers could deliver.
The Costs of Daycare
Despite the historically low wages daycare workers earn, the cost of affording care continues to rise. And it isn’t just childcare costs that are on the rise. The price of giving birth puts a strain on many new parents, as those without insurance can anticipate paying over $12,000 for a routine birth.
In Door County, new parents can qualify for subsidies for daycare through the state. That greatly assists low-income parents, as the average cost of childcare nationwide remains at over $20,000 per year. Those making federal minimum wage do not even earn this amount in one year.
But while subsidies do assist low- to moderate-income parents, they do nothing to solve the shortage of available care. So the parents of Door County got creative.
The Door County Solution
The group of parents involved established a nonprofit childcare center model. Under this model, the Door County Children of Hope, if successful, will enable them to pay childcare workers higher wages, while at the same time addressing the care shortage. While the envisioned Children of Hope Center remains in the planning stages, organizers already have a waiting list of 45 children. Additionally, they have gathered several thousand dollars in donations.
Organizers of Children of Hope have started a GoFundMe account with the goal of raising $550,000 to open the doors of the facility. They are aiming for an operating budget of approximately $150,000 per year. Once the center is open for business, Children of Hope will serve approximately 90 children.
Moving Forward and Inspiring Change
Besides their goal of paying childcare teachers at Children of Hope a competitive wage, the organization is also investigating an inter-generational approach to childcare. Inter-generational programs offer a way to benefit both young children and seniors in assisted care.
Programs combining daycare centers and senior care centers have been successful in several other areas of the country. Seniors benefit from the cognitive stimuli interaction with children builds, and children benefit from regular communication with the seniors in small, manageable time increments of 20 to 60 minutes.
The earliest years of a child are the most formative, and multiple studies have shown having quality early childhood education as a toddler causes a positive ripple effect throughout the remainder of the child’s days. If the Door County Children of Hope proves successful, other communities may be able to adopt the model to address their childcare shortages. Our children truly are our future, and they deserve the best care available. If enough parents are willing to come together, that future can be all the brighter.