Goodwill’s new daycare center shows how employer-supported child care could help solve the child care shortage
At the Goodwill of South Central Ohio, employees who recently had babies sometimes struggle to return to work — not because they don’t want to, but because they can’t find child care.
Parts of Ross County, where the Goodwill’s headquarters are located, are considered a child care deserts, according to the Center for American Progress. Demand for daycare there far outstrips supply.
“There's no doubt there is a need in Ross County,” said Goodwill of South Central Ohio CEO Marvin Jones.
So Goodwill came up with a solution: convert an old office space into a child care center.
Goodwill plans to open the Chillicothe daycare in August. It’ll open about 40 child care slots for employees and non-employees alike.
“Goodwill’s mission is helping people meet the challenges they face in terms of employment,” Jones said. “We think this daycare will be just another example of what we can do to help.”
The state of child care in Ohio
The number of licensed child care providers across the country has been declining for more than a decade, but the pandemic accelerated that trend.
That's true in Ohio as well. Between 2010 and 2016, the number of family child care homes — often the least expensive option for families — dropped by 25%. In the aftermath of the pandemic, a National Association for the Education of Young Children survey of 70 Ohio child care providers found that 64% had completely closed.
Nationally, Child Care Aware of America reported 16,000 licensed providers had permanently closed one year after the pandemic started.
“It's impossible for an independently operating child care provider to make a living,” said Megan Riddlebarger, a former child care provider and the current executive director of the Corporation for Ohio Appalachian Development. “It's much more expensive to provide quality care than it's possible to recoup.”
Now, 40% of Ohio is a child care desert, according to a report from Council for a Strong America. In rural parts of the state, that number is even higher — approaching 60%.
Since the pandemic, the government has offered resources to incentivize providers to re-enter the child care business. A pool of grant money can be used to purchase supplies or to boost wages for child care workers.
“But those resources aren't going to last forever,” Riddlebarger said. “When they go away, people are going to have to figure out a way to support those businesses to keep them operational.”
Employer-supported child care
One possible solution, Riddlebarger says, is employer-supported child care.
“Good quality child care benefits everyone. We all should make our own investment, whether or not it benefits us directly, so that not only do we have a vibrant, healthy workforce, but also a vibrant, healthy future."Megan Riddlebarger
That’s when employers – like Goodwill – offset the cost of child care using their business’s profits.
“When you tell people Goodwill, they will immediately think of our retail stores,” CEO Marvin Jones said. “From those, we are able to help subsidize some of the other things we do, like workforce development.”
Riddlebarger says this solution is one of the most viable pathways out of the child care crisis, but it requires employers to be on board.
“Employers are in the business of making money, and child care is not a business that makes money,” she said. “That being said, we are in a labor market that would hopefully inspire employers to be creative about how they attract and retain staff.”
Subsidized child care, Riddlebarger says, may be a bigger and bigger incentive for workers to take a job.
Plus, he says, high-quality child care has a societal advantage too.
“Good quality child care benefits everyone,” Riddlebarger said. “We all should make our own investment, whether or not it benefits us directly, so that not only do we have a vibrant, healthy workforce, but also a vibrant, healthy future where we’ve invested in our children.”