In a story from The Daily Yonder, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has undertaken a significant research project in rural areas of the state. Studying why people were leaving two rural counties, the data showed one big reason: a lack of affordable childcare.

From the story: “Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, 51% of the U.S. population lived in a childcare desert, defined as areas where the demand far outstrips the supply of available childcare slots; existing childcare facilities (especially in-home operations) are barely sustainable financially; and, staff turnover is high because childcare workers do not earn a living wage. The research underscores wider challenges in rural childcare provision, including: fewer providers; lower numbers of staff and children to sustain operations in remote locations; inadequate transportation systems; and, difficulties recruiting and retaining staff, particularly for senior roles.  

Covid-19 has cast new light on and exacerbated the nation’s childcare crisis. The mandatory shutdown of the U.S. economy idled many workers with young children, eliminating in the process their need for childcare services. This in turn forced some childcare facilities to furlough workers and close; and others to lay-off workers and close permanently. In our rural counties, low vaccination rates combined with the closures has eliminated more than 90% of the available childcare providers.”

From the data gathered, the team at UNC-CH has some suggestions in regards to rural and urban childcare issues:

“Advocate for more and better continuing education programs for childcare workers. Strengthening their educational background and training will enable them to move away from providing basic childcare to rendering culturally- and age-appropriate child development services—an important step given the increasing diversity of U.S. births.  This will go a long way toward ensuring all children enter elementary school ready and excited to learn, especially children of color from low-wealth families and economically marginalized communities.

Engage in the ongoing livable wage campaign for the nation’s childcare workforce.  Sound early childhood development for the next generation of talent is honorable work and should be compensated accordingly.”

To read the rest of the recommendations on the Yonder, click here.

SOURCE: The Daily Yonder