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Business leaders search for solutions to child care ‘crisis’

Half of the families from a Mazda Toyota Manufacturing survey report having trouble finding child care.

Some call our child care system a crisis keeping women out of the workforce. On Tuesday business leaders brainstormed how they can help working families in North Alabama.

Half of the families from a Mazda Toyota Manufacturing survey report having trouble finding child care. That means more mothers out of the workforce, which can especially hold back families that need that second income. For North Alabama it means less jobs filled.

Price and availability hold families back. The average cost of child care is nearly $10,000 a year, which is more than college tuition. 

Availability is also an issue.

“I work 8-5, they close at 2:30,” said a woman at the child care business leaders summit.

Many parents have to leave work before their childcare center closes, which impacts the business they work for.

Local businesses are trying to make things easier. At Visions of Learning Academy they stay open for parents who work later shifts.

“We also can accommodate up until midnight,” said Owner Cynthia Seay.

Employers like Mazda Toyota Manufacturing are looking at what they can do.

“It’s a question of, ‘is it on-site childcare? Is it near-site childcare? Is it some sort of subsidy?'” said Human Resources Manager Lynn Lane. “What can we do to support our team members?”

The child care system isn’t just holding back women. The Economic Policy Institute reports fixing the system would add more than $1 billion of new economic activity to Alabama.

“It’s about changing lives,” said Lane. “It’s about being a good employer.”
They want to remove the barriers to a good job.

“One, she leaves her kids here the latest,” said Amay Haselrig, a teacher at Visions of Learning Academy. “I think her hardest thing is she has so many kids, so us just being able to help her. That’s what I enjoy is just helping her. She’s like, oh she doesn’t have to worry about rushing to get her other kids from school cause she has older kids.”

Employers brainstorm what to change in their companies to change the game for working families.

The event presenter was Gail Piggott, Executive Director for the Alabama Partnership for Children. Event sponsors were Alabama Partnership for Children, Huntsville/Madison County Chamber, and Mazda-Toyota Manufacturing USA. 

Congress recently increased child care funding and Alabama used its part to try to make child care more affordable. Still child care workers in Alabama usually make less than $19,000 a year.