I’ve never imagined that a classified ad for a sale could tug at my heart, but the unimaginable happened this week.
“Daycare closing sale,” the ad said. As someone who spent 28 years as a working with and for children and families in the child care and early childhood education field, those three words are some of the saddest words I’ve seen since being back in Marion.
The owner declined our request to do a story for this week’s paper, saying she was too emotional about it to give an interview. I understand where she’s coming from. As a Head Start program director in Los Angeles, I had to close three of our centers. Knowing the disruption it caused for children and families, it was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make.
It’s an unfortunate but timely incident, given the discussions by Marion city council about the town’s future, because plans for increasing the population and bringing new jobs to town depend, in part, on having an adequate supply of child care for the young families we hope to attract.
Quality, affordable child care is hard to come by. Parents pay more per hour for unqualified babysitters than they do for professionally-trained early childhood educators. If child care programs charged the same rates as babysitters per hour, the cost of care would be unaffordable for many families.
Child care providers don’t just provide a service to families. They support the economic vitality of a town or city by subsidizing the true cost of child care, so that workers are available to fill the jobs needed for a town to thrive.
Center-based care and family day care providers are both part of the necessary mix, and as city planners look to the future, they would be well-advised to consider how these providers can be recruited and supported.
Without them, all those dreams will remain only dreams.
— david colburn