They say it takes a village to raise a child. But the stresses of providing care have largely fallen on parents to figure it out with little outside support in recent years in Michigan. And the COVID-19 pandemic has certainly made this issue exponentially worse over the year. Generally the child care shortage, that affects not just the Upper Peninsula and the state, is defined by a lack of resources within a community and a lack of workers to fill positions. And this vicious cycle of not enough people willing to work in the industry, causes wait lists for programs to become longer, forcing parents to continue to go without work in order to care for their child, making it more difficult to earn enough money to afford child care. And around and around the circle spins. There are solutions out there, but for now they are either too expensive to implement in the Upper Peninsula right away, or there is just a general lack of knowledge around the issue. UPKids Alysa Cherubini-Sutinen says that these issues need to come to a much larger light, because if this industry continues to go without support, parents and children will lose out on very important social and life skills. That can help to set children up for success later in life.
The industry as whole is seldom thought about, but has proven time and time again that it is an essential building block to how communities develop and thrive. Many topics within the child care crisis are very nuanced and much of the conversation can become bogged down by small details. But the solution is clear, in that we must talk about how child rearing affects not just a familial unit but the community as a whole. Such as what mental health resources are available to children and adolescence, how to support not just low income families with child care, but how to extend those benefits to the ever shrinking middle class. And how do we incentivize young adults to enter an industry that has a history high turnover and low wages.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics close to two-thirds of married couples with children, both work full time and that also goes for the 13.6 million single parent families across the country. And leaving their job is seldom an option for them. Plus by simply taking your child out of early development programs, it can have lasting effects on the upward mobility of a familial unit. The issue can best be summarized by what, Labor Economist of the University of Michigan Betsy Stevenson, said in an interview with Politco.com writer Zack Stanton, “Child care is one of those issues where we still really think it’s a personal problem… Compare that with elder care… we have societal grants to cover some of that through Medicaid. But with child care, we’ve said this isn’t a social issue. And I think the pandemic has revealed that it is a social issue.”