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Home » The Future of Work » Why the Right Childcare Benefits Are Essential to Supporting Working Parents

As a growing number of families struggle to find appropriate childcare, employers, government, and other stakeholders can help meet the need by offering the right benefits.

Gigi Schweikert

CEO, Lightbridge Academy

“Childcare benefits should serve the children who are currently in the greatest need of care.”

For many parents, balancing work, kids, and the household budget can be extremely challenging. Worrying about affordable childcare only adds to the frustration.

“We first saw childcare as a necessity during the COVID-19 pandemic, and now again, as families are facing the childcare cliff,” explained Gigi Schweikert, CEO of Lightbridge Academy, one of the nation’s leading early-childhood education childcare and development centers.

Having access to reliable childcare isn’t just important for working parents seeking flexibility, Schweikert says. It also helps ensure kids develop and meet important educational and social milestones.

“Early, quality educational childcare is beneficial to a child’s overall cognitive and social development,” she said. “Research confirms that children who receive quality early childcare are more likely to graduate, go to college, and make a higher income once they begin their careers.”

An emerging need

In September, funding expired for the federal government plan that provided almost $24 billion in childcare stabilization grants. The extra cash allowed facilities to lower tuition and provide higher wages and expanded benefits to their employees.

“The money was given in a time of crisis,” Schweikert explained. “What happened was that centers were actually able to pay teachers what they deserve.”

Schweikert says most people don’t have the ability to quit their jobs and stay home with their kids, and the expiring funds mean more than 3 million children could lose access to childcare. That means there’s now a critical need for communities to come together to give working parents peace of mind by offering childcare benefits that best suit their needs.

“Childcare benefits should follow the child, so that parents who can afford to pay for childcare do, and those in low-income or single-parent households receive the benefits they need,” she said. “Childcare benefits should serve the children who are currently in the greatest need of care.”

Available benefits

Schweikert says that it will take a village to find a solution to the crisis presented by the childcare cliff. For example, employers can help lighten the load by offering a variety of childcare benefits to workers through public and private partnerships.

“These include childcare stipend or direct reimbursement of childcare expenses to employees, on-site childcare facilities, and backup childcare services for unexpected situations when primary childcare arrangements fall through,” she said.

In addition, discount programs arranged with childcare providers for employees can help reduce the financial strain on families. These are often available at no cost to the employer.

Also, dependent care flexible spending accounts allow employees to contribute pre-tax dollars to an account that can be used for eligible dependent care expenses, including childcare.

Where to turn

Schweikert says many employers might not be directly affected by the need for childcare, so it’s important for working parents to speak up.

“If you aren’t familiar with the childcare benefits your organization offers, I’d recommend explaining your need for these benefits and asking if any are offered,” she said. “If there are none in place, there’s no harm in asking if your employer can look into these options for their staff.”

A local childcare resource and referral agency or advocacy group might also be able to help.

“The solution is beyond an individual employer, childcare center, or family,” Schweikert noted. If there’s government funding available, it should follow the child, so that each family is empowered to choose the solution that works best for them.”

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