Investing in child care, parents is a win-win

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Nearly three years ago, when The Daily Item last tackled the issue of child care in the Valley with a robust report, more than 90 licensed facilities in the region were featured in the state’s Keystone STARS rating system, used to provide families a tool to gauge the quality of early learning programs.

Today the number is down nearly 20. As one business owner told us recently, the Valley is a child care desert. Its been exacerbated by the COVID pandemic over the past 20 months.

In the special report that begins today, The Daily Item looks at the issues, including low pay for workers, yet high cost for parents. In part two, coming Tuesday, there is a review about what possible solutions are, including the human infrastructure bill circulating in Washington.

Child care is infrastructure. The family dynamic is infrastructure. Investing in them is almost always money well spent.

It respresents personal infrastructure and the United States does a terrible job promoting it. When Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg took time to help with his newborn twins, he was blasted.

That is why it is so frustrating to see anything that could offer real impact coming out of Washington fall by the wayside. Paid parental leave, for women and men, in the United States remains elusive, a remarkable feat of incompetence considering what the rest of the world provides.

Data from The World Policy Center show the U.S. is the only wealthy nation on the planet without paid parental leave. Britain offers 38 weeks. Estonia offers 82. According to The Washington Post, “Parents in Sweden are guaranteed 480 days of paid time off from work after a new birth or adoption. While a single parent gets 480 days when there are two parents the days are split, amounting to 240 days, or about 34 weeks, each.” A policy was put into place in 2016 in Sweden to promote more men to use all of the time they are allotted.

Imagine the reaction in the U.S. if a father took three months off — let alone 34 weeks — to help care for a newborn. It would be Buttigieg, multiplied.

Clearly, there are financial barriers. These are not cheap fixes, but they are repairs in the system worth fixing.

The arcane “we’ve always done it this way, so we can’t do it that way,” thought process must be kicked to the curb.

This will take a real investment, across dozens of lanes and by us all, to make a difference and effect real change.

In the end, it will be worth it.

NOTE: Opinions expressed in The Daily Item’s editorials are the consensus of the publisher, top newsroom executives and community members of the editorial board. Today’s was written by Managing Editor Bill Bowman.