Friday, May 18, 2007

Affordable Child Care for Working Families

The need for quality child care, preschool, and after-school programs is a daily concern for thousands of Arkansas working parents. Quality child care and constructive after-school programs are too often unaffordable or simply not available. Many working parents and non-traditional students at the University of Arkansas struggle to find quality child care that they can afford.

According to the Department of Labor, over 70% of all women with children under 18 work outside the home. Because the majority of working women need to work in order to support their families, access to affordable child care is essential. Without it, women risk unplanned disruptions in their employment that can affect job performance, restrict opportunities for their advancement in the workforce, and result in lower wages or even job loss.

Child care is often the most costly household expense after shelter and food. For families with children between the ages of 3 and 5 at all income levels, child care is the third greatest expense after housing and food. Full-day child care easily costs $4,000 to $8,000 a year per child -- at least as much as college tuition at the University of Arkansas. For low-income families, child care can represent 50% or more of their net pay.

AFSCME Local 965 has become increasingly concerned about the lack of child care options for members of the UA community—students, staff, and faculty. During the next six months we will be conducting research on options and developing an action plan to secure affordable quality child care for our members. The first step will be to make information on local child care resources available to our membership, but we also will be exploring the possibility of establishing additional child care options near campus.

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