Child care remains unaffordable and inaccessible for many in Ohio • Ohio Capital Journal

Child care remains unaffordable and inaccessible for many in Ohio • Ohio Capital Journal

Child care remains unaffordable and inaccessible for many in Ohio • Ohio Capital Journal

Ohio parents work hard, sometimes working multiple jobs, but most still can’t afford child care—that is, if there are child care options where they live.

A new report from child care advocacy group Groundwork Ohio showed the shortage of child care and the struggles parents had even when they could get it, because the cost of that care can be prohibitive.

The Family Voices Project report surveyed 755 parents and caregivers between April and May of this year, all of whom had at least one child under the age of six. The 755 parents and caregivers represented 932 Ohio children.

In the study, 75% of respondents were women and the majority of families (66%) identified as white. In terms of family structure, 75% of respondents were two-parent families and the highest poverty level represented (43%) lived below 200% of the federal poverty line.

The study, which surveyed parents, focused on the policy pillars of early learning and child care, health care access and quality, early childhood trauma prevention, and economic stability.

The study concluded that child care subsidies “are a critical support for working families, but access is limited.”

One in three Ohioans surveyed reported having “difficulty finding child care,” and nearly 60% said their current child care situation was unaffordable.

“More than half of respondents whose children were not enrolled in daycare cited the cost of daycare as a reason,” the study said.

While nearly as many said they relied on state-funded child care assistance, 40% of them had difficulty finding a facility that would accept them.

The study also showed problems with the PFCC program, even for those who had already applied and been deemed eligible. A quarter of survey participants who receive a child care subsidy “reported that their co-pay was not affordable.”

That’s when you get the grants: 24% of respondents who applied for the program said it took more than three months to start receiving PFCC funds after applying.

Many respondents have had to change their work schedules or reduce hours due to difficulties in arranging childcare.

And while nearly all parents reported having a support system, such as partners, friends or parents, one in three parents had “high levels of stress” and 65% said they “could benefit from additional parenting resources and support.”

Public assistance programs were part of the parenting process for study participants: 27% were enrolled in Medicaid, 16% were part of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and 13% were on the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).

The largest group of study participants (26%) was from central Ohio, followed by northeast Ohio (20%), Appalachia (18%), southwest Ohio (15%), and northwest Ohio (8%).

While the majority of study participants were from two-parent households, those in single-parent households were also represented, reporting working more than one job to make ends meet — 10 percent more than two-parent households.

Working multiple jobs and struggling to find (and keep) childcare has knock-on effects on children’s health, the study shows.

Children in households with incomes between 200% and 400% of the federal poverty line were “less likely to have a regular source” of health care, the study found, and children are sometimes unable to attend well-child visits even when they have regular care, due to parents’ work schedules or the cost of care.

“Parents with higher incomes (above 400% of the federal poverty level) had fewer access problems; however, 15% reported not being able to access timely care for a sick child and 18% reported having difficulty accessing a specialist in a timely manner,” the study found.

The legislature appears to have taken note, as advocates sounded the alarm about a “crisis” regarding child care costs, availability and workforce. Several bills, many of them sponsored by Republican lawmakers, have been handed over to committees during the current General Assembly. Although the bills won’t see further action until November as lawmakers are on summer break, Republican-led bills will have a better chance of passing in the Republican-supermajority legislature.