Working parents with young children miss an average of 5.3 work days each year because of a sick child or other unanticipated child care needs, according to a survey conducted by southwestern Ohio employers. The survey found that parents miss an average of 4.2 work days each year because of a sick child, and another 1.1 days per year because of school snow days, sick child-care providers or other interruptions in normal arrangements. However, only 26 percent of the employees worked at companies with policies that address parental needs regarding sick children. Many of those were permitted to use their own sick, personal or vacation days; some had family or sick child days. Only a handful worked at a company with on-site child care facilities.
The workplace has been painfully slow to adapt to the changing needs of employee-parents, both male and female. This inability to adapt to parental needs will be especially daunting for parents moving off welfare. Many parents entering the work force after welfare will have jobs with very limited sick day benefits and fragile job security. Missing anywhere from 1 to 3 days a year due to sick children could mean losing a job and possibly the only household income.
As more and more parents are moved from welfare into the workforce, making choices about caring for a sick child or going to work will be a common dilemma. Many communities, especially rural ones, provide very few child care services for sick children. How can this mother avoid jeopardizing her newfound job yet meet the immediate needs of her sick child? The answer is to have alternate child care available- an option which is often difficult to find.
How can child care providers help parents meet these unexpected needs? Here are some suggestions to consider expanding options for your program:
As many parents leave welfare and begin minimum wage/low-benefit jobs, there will be a great demand for "drop-in" and "sick child" care. What has often been considered alternate child care options may become more popular as the need for these services increases over the next few years.