The Pandemic May Be Changing the Future of Childcare – What Working Parents Need to Know

Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash

One of the greatest hurdles working parents have faced this year is adjusting to having the kids home, rather than in school, all day.

Whether parents work outside the home or work from home, the challenges of limited in-person classes and virtual learning means that nearly every parent needs some sort of help to balance it all.

One form of childcare has been around for decades, but the pandemic may be making this option more popular than ever.

There is no decision that weighs more heavily on parents than who will care for their children when they are away at work.

A family member or trusted friend is often their first choice, but this is not always a viable option.  Many parents then go to great lengths to research and choose a childcare center in their community.

The majority of American children in daycare attend a licensed center, often part of a national chain, or one provided by employers or their home church.

But they can be notoriously expensive, often costing the majority of one parent’s income for the month, making it sometimes difficult for both parents to focus on their careers.

One choice that many American parents are happy with is also generally far less expensive.  But this option has often gotten a bad rap for flying under the radar when it comes to regulations and licensing.

Home daycare centers are often run by women — mothers and grandmothers themselves who saw a need for a less-expensive option for working parents.

These caregivers are often former teachers or childcare professionals who offer a small caregiver/child ratio, something that appeals to many parents.

Of the more than 7 million children who stay with a home caregiver, more than half stay with a relative.  The rest are from families reliant on home daycare.

But, sadly, home daycares have gotten a bad reputation in some cases.  Some are run under the guise of “babysitting” to avoid state licensing requirements, and they often don’t acquire health department inspections or liability insurance.

They are also difficult to research, as most don’t have websites or any kind of online presence that would include reviews or other information parents need in order to make an informed decision.

Many are licensed, but go out of business because they can’t afford all the administrative, legal, insurance, and licensing fees that offer protections without charging a price that exceeds their offered services.

And because they aren’t regulated, they are overlooked when it comes to federal childcare assistance programs, something the Trump administration has been working to change.

In the past decade and a half, the number of licensed home daycare centers has drastically decreased by more than half, and there are now less than 90,000 of these centers across the nation.

But there is a definite demand for home childcare from parents who like the more comfortable setting, the individualized attention, and the flexibility and cost.

And like many other issues that have evolved over time with online platforms and social media, a new idea is taking root to bring home daycares some help and a chance at success.

A number of new companies are popping up across the country that help parents find home childcare centers online by matching needs, cost, and other aspects of a profile – sort of like online dating — to find that perfect match.

These companies then help home caregivers with some of the overwhelming administrative and legal considerations by handling much of the legwork themselves.

In turn, this helps to add credibility to these small entrepreneurs and assistance with advertising, billing, and recommendations.

This year’s combination of a health crisis and its ensuing lockdowns have made home daycares more popular than they’ve been in years.

Larger chain centers had either shut down or seriously limited their capacity, leaving families with very few options when the pandemic started.

Months later, many of these families who thought of home daycare as a temporary help have found they are happy with the more individualized care and lower cost.

Another benefit is the fact that siblings of multiple ages can often spend the day together, unlike larger childcare centers that separate children into rooms by age.

And for those who lost their jobs due to state lockdowns and closures, opening their own home daycare has provided an unexpected opportunity to both be home with their own child and also provide neighbors, friends, and other members of the community with more personalized childcare.

With the development of these new online companies that cater to helping home-based childcare providers by matching them with those within the community, along with assistance with administrative tasks, home daycares can provide the comforts of home with the peace of mind of insurance and licensing credentials.

As with anyone who cares for your child, if you’re considering home-based childcare, research the company the caregiver is affiliated with, get references, visit in person with your child, and stay involved.

This may be the future of childcare in America as more and more parents keep their children in smaller group settings while away from home.