As a small-business manager, staff turnover plagues me. Many other local business owners feel the same way. Staff members seek upward movement, additional pay, better hours, etc. You cannot fault them for that, those are just perks that sometimes appear in limited supply in smaller organizations.
Other staff members want to stay, but external forces prevent it. For example, a spouse may get a better job elsewhere that requires a family to move. Other families weigh the cost benefit of child care bills and one parent opts to stay home rather than remain in the workforce.
When low unemployment and a small pool of applicants make finding skilled help difficult, the last thing business managers and owners want is to lose a valued employee to child care woes.
To be clear, I’m not talking about families who want one parent to stay home. Each family must make that decision based on its individual situation. But, I’ve known more than one family in which both parents want to work, but once they pencil out the cost of child care, it just doesn’t make sense.
Over the last several weeks, this issue has appeared and reappeared in my thoughts. It’s one of those nagging thoughts you cannot get rid of — sort of like those annoying songs from our childhood (”This is the song that never ends, it goes on and on my friend”) that somebody starts to sing and everybody groans because they know it will now plant itself in their minds, too.
Several months ago, we quoted YMCA Executive Director Elisabeth Cassiday as saying child care facilities in Sheridan decreased from 42 licensed child care facilities in 2010 to 32 in 2014 and 28 in 2019. Meanwhile, Sheridan County’s population has grown from around 26,000 to just more than 30,000. The number of children younger than 13 in that mix has remained fairly steady around 5,000. The number of residents age 18-44 in the population has grown from 19,780 to 20,563 (not an increase in terms of a percentage of the population, but an increase in real numbers of residents generally in the age range when they begin families).
With that information, the questions begin swirling. Were there too many child care providers before? How many families struggle to find child care now? How many more spaces within child care centers do we need? Is infant child care the primary need? What prevents more child care centers from opening? Which organizations could partner to solve this problem?
The emphasis placed on quality, accessible child care in Sheridan County has grown since 2010. Multiple groups are working to train providers, expand services and better prepare children for entering grade school.
Businesses, too, have taken note. In recent years, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has issued multiple reports on the business case for supporting high-quality child care. The reports cite research that shows when companies provide child care support, employee absences decrease, job satisfaction increases and job turnover declines by as much as 60%.
I don’t know about other small business owners, but I’d love to see a 60% decline in employee turnover.
An attempt to address quality, accessible child care occurred in Sheridan County about a decade ago; perhaps it’s time to try again.