Economic Alliance seeks feedback on child care in York County

Matt Enright
York Dispatch
Crispus Attucks Charter School student Nai-Agah Martino works with Olivia Fedor, 2, and Layla Park, 1, left, while hand painting at Crispus Attucks Early Learning Center Monday, March 11, 2019. Crispus Attucks Charter School students and graduates gain experience at the center while working toward childcare certification. Bill Kalina photo

Child care is at a premium in York County.

And that could have an effect on employment. 

Some 6,800 children did not have access to high-quality child care even before the pandemic, according to York County Economic Alliance development chief Silas Chamberlain. That number has increased significantly, to about 10,000, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Those stats are used by a lot of organizations to simply say, 'We need to get those children into high-quality child care for their own education and for their growth as individuals,'" he said. "But obviously the second piece of that is if there's not high-quality child care, then the people who are providing that care at home can't return to the workforce."

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While it's not known how many people have left the workforce locally because of a lack of child care, nationally nearly 3 million women have left the workforce for that reason, according to the National Women's Law Center. 

And Pennsylvania organizations want to find out the impact of child care on employment.

The alliance is soliciting information from businesses on the impact of child care on businesses and the economy through a survey released Monday.

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The survey is an opportunity to assess interest and best practices from employers in the county, said Sully Pinos, who leads YCEA's business innovation efforts.

It's modeled after a survey from the Pennsylvania Early Learning Commission, a partnership of business leaders that has the success of children as its top priority.

"We can ask these questions on a more local level, really just gathering information on what employers are doing related to providing child care supports to their workforce or if they believe child care is limiting them on hiring or bringing back employees," Pinos said. 

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During the pandemic, businesses had to cut back on their capacity for child care while they were in survival mode, Chamberlain said.

"It's hard to imagine a scenario where some major employers don't have to start actively investing in child care because it's such a competitive labor market," he said. "It's such a strong barrier to the workplace, especially to women and others." 

Along with the Early Learning Investment Commission, YCEA is partnering with local organizations such as Child Care Consultants and the York Builders Association. Once the data is gathered, Pinos said, they plan to share it with their partners and host employer roundtables and discussions to further connect.

The survey will remain open until Aug. 20.

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