How the challenges of childcare are received in the economy

How the challenges of childcare are received in the economy

Diane Abram sees how the challenges faced by daycare operators and their staff are affecting the economy.

“Many parents cannot work without reliable childcare, and childcare cannot function effectively until our own workforce is secure,” said Abram, a longtime family daycare operator. “It’s an issue of economic development and human resource development. Quality childcare is critical to our economy.”

Abram and others say more funding is needed to ensure a vital industry remains viable and to address long-standing problems of low wages for the workers who make the industry possible.

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This year’s state budget included $7 billion over four years in child care support, increasing state support for child care subsidies. Proponents say that was a big help. But they are calling on federal lawmakers to further close the gap between subsidies and the actual cost of running a daycare and paying living wages to workers.

Abram, who runs Toot-Toot Day Care in Buffalo, said family day care providers are losing staff to other employers with higher wages and benefits.

“A person can make more money working for a fast food chain than working as an early childhood educator who provides young children with the stepping stones to future learning, growth, and cognitive and emotional development,” she said.


A report from Erie County illustrates the challenges faced by daycare operators and staff.

Associated Press

The Buffalo Co-Lab of Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations and Erie County’s Erie Emergency Child Care Task Force recently released an updated report outlining what the county’s industry is grappling with:

• The current employment in day care in the district has fallen by 20% compared to 2018.

• The median annual wage for childcare workers in the county is $23,972.

• A little less than one-third — 31% — of the county’s child care providers rely on Medicaid, 19% are eligible for welfare assistance, and 18% receive benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

The working poor among providers

“All too often, these professionals are themselves part of the working poor,” says Lou Jean Fleron, senior adviser on political economy at the Co-Lab.

Advocates of increasing childcare funding say low-paid employees could leave for other jobs, which may cause childcare centers to reduce capacity. And when parents can’t find affordable childcare, they may quit the job market or seek a job at a time when employers are clamoring to fill vacancies.

“It is very clear that the market cannot solve this problem because parents cannot pay enough to cover the real cost of childcare,” Fleron said. “Public funds are required.”

David Balkin, president of SUNY Erie Community College, described access to childcare as one of the top barriers emerging from the pandemic. And staffing remains a pressing issue for providers, he said.

“Low wages have caused many skilled professionals to turn their backs on their beloved careers because they just can’t make ends meet,” Balkin said. The college has an early childhood studies program to train workers for the field.

David Balkin

David Balkin, President of Erie Community College.

Derek Gee/Buffalo News

In-home options available

Day care operators like Sofia Mado, who runs Little Angels Day Care, are at the forefront.

Mado said the pandemic is another strain on an industry already under pressure to keep costs down to remain affordable for customers. Despite this, her employees continued to report to their workplaces during the pandemic.

“They helped our community get back to work and helped local schools run online classes while their own students attended our newly remodeled daycare classrooms,” she said.

Mado said the funds approved in this year’s state budget are helpful, but “they are nowhere near what we need to sustain our industry.”

Abram said family day providers like her, who operate from home, face different obstacles than daycare centers: not enough children to fill available spots. Your day care center has capacity for 16 children, but currently only cares for four.

“The challenge is how do we start communicating that there are quality day care programs in home-based family day care?” she said.

Abram said she believes there is a misconception that family daycare is just “babysitting,” where kids are parked in front of a TV all day. Not true, she said.

Family day centers must go through licensing and training, she said, and many of the operators have bachelor’s or master’s degrees.

People who run family daycares work long hours, often seven days a week, because they are responsible for all elements of the operation, Abram said. “We’re the caretaker. We have to do lesson plans, we have to do syllabi, all of that.”

But with all the challenges, there is also pride.

Abram reflects on the children who have gone through day care and are now adults. One is a cop in Chicago. Another owns her own beauty salon. Many are university graduates.

Abram says many family daycares started out as a sort of solution. The parents couldn’t afford childcare, so they opened a daycare center in their home and took in other children. The operators expected that they would stick with it only until their own children were old enough to go to school.

Instead, these operators have often continued long past the age of their own children, she said.

“They find it so satisfying and they watch these kids grow. They find they love it.”

Would you like to know more? Three stories to catch up:

• How childcare affects attitudes

• Agreement reached on a $220 billion New York budget. Here are the key elements

• Unemployment remains at today’s lows in Buffalo Niagara


Catch up on the latest news from the Buffalo Niagara economy.

A California plastics manufacturer is planning to convert a former pet supply company facility in Angola to its distribution center on the east coast.

Clarence manufacturer Seal & Design is planning to expand its facility — and it’s seeking tax breaks from the city‘s IDA.

for Kaleida, Fulfillment of the increased staffing requirements included in his provisional employment contract with its main unions will not be easy.

A decaying former church on Lafayette Avenue is scheduled for demolition.

Kaleida and the unions that represent more than 6,000 of its workers agreed to a three-year contractwhich could have prevented a devastating strike.

There is further delays at a drug factory in Dunkirkthis time by new operator ImmunityBio, which acquired Athenex’s $200 million state-funded facility.

A staffing agency from Buffalo agreed to a $550,000 settlement for a workplace discrimination lawsuit.

The old Lion Brewery building on Jefferson Avenue is to become apartments and an art center.

Buffalo-based investment firm Lorraine Capital has bought a manufacturer with offices in Pennsylvania and Maryland.

SUNY Erie Community College is Transfer of 57 acres of its South Campus to the state for use as a staging area during construction of Bills Stadium.

That The state is providing $25 million to help Kaleida close its big budget gap.

There was much competition for the first licenses to operate a store selling marijuana in the state’s legalized market.

Worker at food supplier Sysco went on strike in Depew and parts of upstate New York.

A Developer was selected for a pilot program to build homes on vacant lots on Adams Street in Buffalo, but public interest has been disappointing.


Five readings from Buffalo Next:

1. A handful of solar farms proposed for locations in western New York will be among the largest in the statepushing to get more electricity from renewable sources.

2. Let’s strike! But only for a day or two: This is all part of a strategy by unions to pressure employers while limiting the financial pain that work stoppages inflict on workers.

3. The Buffalo Niagara housing market has cooled off somewhatbut is holding up well compared to other US markets.

4. Made in WNY: Junk Free Skin cuts plastic from bath products: With this new technology, Junk Free Skin reduces plastic consumption in personal care products by more than 80%, said owner Tom Akers.

5. How sports teams bring in big bucks through sponsorships, marketing opportunities for businesses: It is an opportunity for companies to use the professional sports team as a marketing tool. For the Buffalo Bills and Buffalo Sabers, it’s a way to generate more marketing revenue.

The Buffalo Next team brings you an overview of the region’s economic revitalization. Email tips to [email protected] or call Assistant Business Editor David Robinson at 716-849-4435.

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