On Thursday, Ivanka Trump asked attendees of a child care roundtable in Kansas City to share their struggles and the solutions they would like to see on a federal level.
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson, Sen. Roy Blunt and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar were also in attendance. Azar said the administration will finish up the series of 10 roundtables in a couple of months and begin adding the information they’ve gathered into President Trump’s budget proposals.
“We need state and local feedback,” Ivanka Trump said. “We need to hear from parents and educators and students, about what more we can be doing. This local perspective very much informs all the work that we’re doing on a federal level.”
Ivanka Trump said child care is an undisputed working expense and that when parents can’t access care for their children, it has ramifications for the economy. Parson said that workforce development has been one of his priorities since taking office and that child care is linked to this.
“When we talk about workforce development, that also includes daycare,” Parson said. “We gotta have the resources we need for parents to be able to be in the workforce.”
Those resources, however, are a work in progress. Mona Martin, director of human resources at HM Dunn Aerosystems, said there is a lack of child care options for those working non-traditional hours, like overnight or weekend shifts.
Martin said this lack of options can force parents to leave their children with neighbors or partners, who may be unqualified to care for them. Jennifer Tidball, acting director of the Missouri Department of Social Services, said this can lead to dangerous consequences.
“We see children die, or children who are injured, because we have mothers who have went to work and made decisions to go to work, but they don’t have access to quality safe child care for their children,” Tidball said.
This lack of access can also increase employee turnover and decrease work attendance, Martin said.
Those at the round table discussed the role employers can play in child care. Carolyn Watley, vice president of community engagement at CBIZ, said there are numerous strategies employers can utilize to help out working parents, including flexible scheduling, family leave and rooms for nursing mothers.
Watley said her company offers a child care referral service for employees to help them find the care that’s available.
“We have, at our company, a new parent advocate that really helps parents when they come back through those challenges,” Watley said. “One of the most important things we can do is help support those in our community that are providing child care.”
Blunt said that companies who provide child care for their employees may also see benefits themselves.
“If you’ve got a child care problem solved in a way that relates to your employment, a lot of things have to go bad at work before you decide to walk away from your biggest problem being solved,” Blunt said. “I think there are more and more companies that are beginning to figure out how they can contract to provide child care at a work place.”
Martin also discussed the unintended consequences of hard income limits on child care subsidies.
“We’ve had people come and say, ‘Please don’t give me a raise, because if I take this 10-cent-an-hour raise, I can no longer qualify for child care assistance,’ and that breaks my heart,” Martin said.