CARTERVILLE — Business leaders met Tuesday to discuss the importance of child care to a strong economy.
ReadyNation, a nonprofit network of business leaders whose members aim to strengthen business and the economy through investments in children and youth, discussed a recent study during a press conference in Carterville in the offices of Child Care Resource and Referral at John A. Logan College. Lori Longueville, director of CCR&R, hosted the event.
“For 28 years, we have provided an array of services, and the No. 1 is child care assistance, which helps families with the rising cost of child care,” Longueville said.
Woody Thorn, vice president of community affairs for Southern Illinois Healthcare, said the ability to afford high-quality child care keeps parents earning, children learning and businesses operating.
Athena Caballero of HireLevel Staffing in Marion describes her company as the match-makers for employees and companies. Child care is an issue when placing employees in positions.
“Parents are children’s first and most important caregivers, and sometimes they need a little help,” Cabellero said. “Seventy percent of young children live in a household where all the parents work.”
She said a single mom with two children who has a job earning $10 to $12 per hour does not make enough to pay for child care. She will make $21,000 to $25,000 and incur costs of $13,000 in child care. And, that is without any challenges like swing shifts or differing hours on different days.
“It not only affects kids and working parents, it also affects employers and co-workers,” Caballero said.
Johnathan Hallberg of Jefferson County Development Corporation serves on the Southern Illinois Workforce Development Board. He said SIWDB spends a lot of time talking about child care.
“A study found that parents who deal with child care challenges take an extra five to nine days off per year to deal with child care issues,” Hallberg said.
That becomes a big issue in Jefferson County, which has a number of large employers.
“High-quality child care is an education and an early part of early childhood education,” Hallberg said.
He added that Illinois’ state-supported preschool would not be possible without reliable half-day child care. Without the child care, working parents cannot access the preschool programs.
“Across the country, 32 percent of parents have a hard time finding child care,” Sean Noble of ReadyNation said.
In 2015, Illinois eliminated funding for the Child Care Assistance Program. Funding was restored last year, but many working parents are not aware of it or don’t trust it enough to apply for assistance.
ReadyNation is working to encourage state leaders to not cut back funding in the budget and fully support the Child Care Assistance Program in the budget, and reach out to parents and employers.
This year, the Child Care Assistance Program served 1,210 families in January and 1,288 families in March. Longueville said they used to serve around 2,200 families before 2015.
“For example, we used to serve more than 445 SIU students. We now serve 59,” Longueville said. “It was really, really difficult. We are glad the governor restored that funding, but we have to get the word out. Ownership from the business community is huge.”
For more information on the Child Care Assistance Program, as well as information and referrals to child care, preschool and Head Start, call CCR&R at 1-800-548-5563 or visit jalc.edu/ccrr.