Last week, I had the tremendous honor and privilege to represent families like yours at the White House Summit on Working Families. I was invited to participate in one of the panels and then joined President Obama in a CEO roundtable discussion about how companies can help families deal with care challenges, including cost.
It was a powerful, exhilarating and humbling experience and I was keenly aware that my role there was not simply to represent Care.com but to represent all of our members who wrestle with care on a daily basis. Companies are just starting to be aware of how important it is to support families at home by providing care benefits. Care is the single largest expense for most families – often higher than education and even housing. And it also accounts for real loss in productivity and advancement as families struggle to balance childcare, senior care and other issues at home while remaining focused on work.
This loss of productivity, combined with the high cost of care has a real and tangible impact on economic growth, not just for families but for our country as a whole. Here are a few of the statistics from the research we recently conducted about the cost of care.
- The average US family spends about $18,000 a year on childcare, more than any other budgetary item
- 75% of families told us they were surprised and overwhelmed when learning what care would cost
- 42% of families don’t budget for child care
We also found how variable this cost can be nationwide. For example, in Boston, two children in day care can cost an average of $664 a week, whereas a nanny would be about $531. And San Francisco’s average for daycare is $440 a week, whereas a nanny is $580.
And unlike other kinds of spending, care is not discretionary, it is essential. In this country, 63% of families have two parents working, so care is not optional, but even with two incomes, many families still struggle to cover the costs.
This is exactly why the White House Summit was convened. To have an open, candid dialogue with decision makers in government and business leaders across industries to focus on the problems and more importantly, start to identify some solutions. Key topics mentioned throughout the day included paid parental leave – where the US is lagging the rest of the developed world – and flex-time and back up care programs. But I don’t need to tell you, solving these issues would just be a start to this complex issue.
So what can we do? The President understands that child care is a critical issue for working families and I can tell you that he was sincere and impassioned as he spoke to us during the roundtable asking us to help him and Congress solve it. The good news is that there are numerous companies across the country who are blazing a new trail when it comes to innovative policies and programs that support their employees’ care needs. We’re learning from them and expect that they will inspire other employers to follow suit. And we have promised the President that we will report back to him on that front.
I want to hear your stories. And I would love to share them with the President and the CEOs I’m working with to create a proposal for a national care solution.
Here’s what I hope you will do: Email me your care stories. Tell me what your family has been through paying for care, whether it’s for a child or a senior. Tell me how your work has handled your leave and what support you have from your office to care for children or a parent. What benefits and policies does your employer offer you? What would make it easier? What would reduce your stress about care? What should companies be implementing? Email me your thoughts, stories and concerns at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This country needs proper care structures in place for our economy to grow. At Care.com, we always say that when it’s working at home, it’s working at work. It’s exhilarating to see that this all-important topic is now front-page news. Conversations are taking place. Care.com is involved and I want to be sure I truly represent you all. Your stories can make a huge impact. Your stories can help us all influence real change for all families and their loved ones.