Washington, DC – As a new school year approaches and many businesses make steps toward reopening, many parents are struggling to locate quality, affordable child care amid closures and capacity restrictions, according to a newly released survey conducted by Morning Consult for the Bipartisan Policy Center.
More than 70% of parents surveyed reported that their child care program had either closed or was operating at reduced capacity. The survey finds that 14% of child care centers and 8% of home-based providers have permanently closed nationwide. Because most child care providers are operating on thin margins in good times, these closures may begin to mount.
“For business to fully recover and for parents to return to work child care is a critical factor,” said Linda Smith, director of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Early Childhood Initiative. “To prevent catastrophic loss of child care infrastructure, financial support needs to be predictable and sustainable.”
While some parents have the option to work remotely while providing child care, 22% of those surveyed said they cannot return to work without child care. More than half of parents who have looked for child care during the pandemic have found it difficult to locate an arrangement in their budget, and among those families with incomes below $50,000, 72% of parents expressed some degree of difficulty. That means millions of parents face a major barrier to returning to work, which likely presents a challenge for economic recovery.
This child care shortage poses a problem for parents of school-age children as well. Forty percent of those parents report their children’s public school district will operate in a hybrid model this fall, and half of them will need some sort of child care arrangement at least part-time.
Parents also indicated a range of concerns about sending their children back to child care. Seventy-seven percent of parents surveyed said they worried returning to child care would increase their family’s risk of exposure to COVID-19. Parents named increased hand sanitation stations, temperature and symptom checks on entry, required COVID-19 testing for staff, and required use of face masks as important to allay concerns about health and safety.
Meanwhile, the survey suggested an increased reliance on family members during the pandemic, with 30% of parents not currently paying for care relying on a family member of relative and 14% alternating hours with a spouse or other household member to provide care.
The survey was conducted from August 3-10, 2020, among 1,000 parents of children under the age of 5 and had someone in the household employed in January 2020. The interviews were conducted online. Results from the full survey have a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.