Readers Report on Their Childcare Arrangements
Family Forum™ Results 
FONT-SIZE: 10pt">In November 2002, we asked readers about their childcare arrangements. Here’s a look at what they had to say.

FONT-SIZE: 10pt">This is not intended to be a scientific study, but rather a stimulus for thought and discussion with our readers. Please note that because respondents could check more than one box – or none at all – the results do not always add up to 100 percent.

FONT-SIZE: 10pt">Who’s in Care?

FONT-SIZE: 10pt">Of their children in childcare, respondents to our survey reported that:

FONT-SIZE: 10pt">• 21 percent are 1 year old or younger.

FONT-SIZE: 10pt">• 59 percent are between the ages of 1 and 3.

FONT-SIZE: 10pt">• 23 percent are between 4 and 5.

FONT-SIZE: 10pt">• 19 percent are 5 or above.

Nationwide, approximately 13 million children under age 6 have both parents or their only parent in the work force, according to the Child Care Action Campaign (CCAC). By the age of 6, 84 percent of children have received some kind of supplemental care and education.

FONT-SIZE: 10pt">Who’s Providing the Care?

FONT-SIZE: 10pt">• 51 percent of respondents to our survey report using a daycare center or preschool as their primary childcare provider.

FONT-SIZE: 10pt">• 20 percent report using a family daycare provider.

FONT-SIZE: 10pt">• 11 percent rely on a relative.

FONT-SIZE: 10pt">• 6 percent have a nanny.

• 6 percent rely on a neighbor or a friend.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, nationwide: 22 percent of preschoolers are cared for in organized facilities (including childcare centers, Head Start, nursery schools and preschools), 11 percent are in family daycare, 26 percent are cared for by relatives, and 4 percent are cared for by a non-relative in the child’s home.

For backup care – covering those times when a family’s primary childcare provider is unavailable – our respondents rely on:

• family members and friends (77 percent),

• a private babysitter (9 percent), and

• company-provided childcare (5 percent).

Some respondents didn’t answer this question, and one parent – perhaps speaking for those – wrote: “I don’t have any.”

High-quality, affordable backup care can be hard to come by. There are no national statistics available on who families turn to for backup care, but the CCAC estimates that American businesses lose $1.2 billion each year due to childcare-related absenteeism, suggesting that backup care is most often provided by parents themselves.

At the same time, results of a recent study at the Harvard School of Public Health indicate that workers are often penalized for taking time off to care for their children.

How Much Childcare Do Families Use?

• 64 percent of our respondents report having a child in full-time care.

• 29 percent use part-time care.

• 7 percent use both.

style="FONT-FAMILY: Verdana; FONT-SIZE: 10pt">Parents Are Mostly Satisfied

style="FONT-FAMILY: Verdana; FONT-SIZE: 10pt">• 90 percent of our respondents report being “satisfied” or “extremely satisfied” with their childcare arrangement.

style="FONT-FAMILY: Verdana; FONT-SIZE: 10pt">• What respondents like best is their child’s relationship with the caregivers and/or the adult-to-child ratio (73 percent). But other factors were important, too: the child’s relationship with other children (31 percent), location (27 percent), cost (20 percent), facilities (19 percent) and hours (12 percent).

style="FONT-FAMILY: Verdana; FONT-SIZE: 10pt">One parent added that her family values the “creative and stimulating program.” Another wrote, “Because [our providers] are a husband-wife team and share the same culture and language as we do, we are very comfortable with them and my son thinks of them as his aunt and uncle.”

style="FONT-FAMILY: Verdana; FONT-SIZE: 10pt">• What respondents like least includes: cost (44 percent), hours (24 percent), location (20 percent), facilities (13 percent), their child’s relationship with other children (12 percent) and their child’s relationship with the provider (7 percent).

style="FONT-FAMILY: Verdana; FONT-SIZE: 10pt">Change What?

style="FONT-FAMILY: Verdana; FONT-SIZE: 10pt">Although our respondents reported a generally high level of satisfaction, most still had something they wished was different.

style="FONT-FAMILY: Verdana; FONT-SIZE: 10pt">• 27 percent said they wouldn’t change a thing.

style="FONT-FAMILY: Verdana; FONT-SIZE: 10pt">• 24 percent wish the cost was lower.

style="FONT-FAMILY: Verdana; FONT-SIZE: 10pt">• 23 percent said they wished they knew more about what really goes on during their child’s day.

style="FONT-FAMILY: Verdana; FONT-SIZE: 10pt">• 9 percent wish the childcare provider had extended/flexible hours.

style="FONT-FAMILY: Verdana; FONT-SIZE: 10pt">And speaking of cost ...

style="FONT-FAMILY: Verdana; FONT-SIZE: 10pt">• 38 percent of respondents to our survey spend under 10 percent of their household income on childcare.

style="FONT-FAMILY: Verdana; FONT-SIZE: 10pt">• 38 percent spend 10 to 20 percent.

style="FONT-FAMILY: Verdana; FONT-SIZE: 10pt">• 14 percent spend 20 to 30 percent.

"FONT-FAMILY: Verdana; FONT-SIZE: 10pt">• 5 percent spend more than 30 percent.

"FONT-FAMILY: Verdana; FONT-SIZE: 10pt">One respondent commented that trying to find a program that offered financial assistance made her search much more complicated. But another parent commented that “the biggest challenge is finding qualified and committed childcare providers. Positions do not support high-quality caregivers.” And another wrote: “I believe the staff-to-child ratio should be lower and that staff should be paid more.”

"FONT-FAMILY: Verdana; FONT-SIZE: 10pt">These comments illustrate the essential bind of childcare in America: High-quality care is often too expensive for families, but the pay is often much too low to attract and retain high-quality childcare providers.

"FONT-FAMILY: Verdana; FONT-SIZE: 10pt">According to the most recent statistics available (1997), Americans spend an average of 8 percent of their income on childcare and the average salary for childcare providers working in childcare centers is $13,720 for full-time work.

"FONT-FAMILY: Verdana; FONT-SIZE: 10pt">Other Comments:

"FONT-FAMILY: Verdana; FONT-SIZE: 10pt">• One parent’s heartfelt story told of her deep and frightening disappointment with her childcare provider. Despite high praise from other parents when she checked references, this mother found the family daycare provider to be unsafe, unclean and unpleasant to deal with. “I would not be surprised if your survey finds that parents love their providers,” she wrote. “But I’ve learned to take recommendations with a grain of salt.”

"FONT-FAMILY: Verdana; FONT-SIZE: 10pt">• One parent offered this advice for dealing with logistics: “[Parents should] develop a network with other parents you can call if you are running late or need your child brought to childcare.”

"FONT-FAMILY: Verdana; FONT-SIZE: 10pt">See also: What’s Going On in Preschools Today? Preschool is one form of childcare that has recently received a great deal of national attention. As access to early education expands, find out what you should expect and look for in preschool classrooms?

Take our quiz to find out if you child is ready for preschool.