Give parents a break

Kim Moore and son Finn

Searching for affordable childcare.

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For a while I was unsure whether I was going to be able to return to my job at Oregon Business magazine after giving birth to my son in November. My partner and I had fruitlessly searched six months for daycare in Portland (See my blog from November 2015). Everywhere we looked waiting lists were long – more than a year at many places. Getting our infant a daycare place before my three-month maternity leave ended looked increasingly unlikely.

In the end, we found a daycare spot at a recently opened YMCA-run facility in southeast Portland. The fact the facility had just opened and was still under the radar – we found out about it through word of mouth – enabled us to snap up one of only four places it has for infants.  We felt lucky to get a place in the city – we had heard it is easier to find daycare spots in the suburbs – but we also lamented the lack of choice. No other place we visited offered a place when we needed it.     

Other parents of young children in Portland have told me they are facing the same problem. It is a testament to the city’s popularity – its rapid population growth is putting a strain on the availability of daycare spots. One executive at a childcare center in the city said the waiting list at her facility had never been so long.

The lack of availability of childcare options is an issue for businesses because it is an obstacle for parents of young children, particularly mothers, who need or want to return to work. As the population continues to increase and daycare spots become more rare, parents without access to alternative forms of care will have no choice but to leave the workforce to be at home with their children.

It is time for businesses to step up and help employees with young families transition back to their jobs. A few options are offering paid parental leave; providing onsite daycare  – a few large businesses and institutions such as OHSU, Portland State University, Bonneville Power Administration – offer this already; or investing in innovate new co-working spaces, such as Women’s Plaza, which allow parents to work under the same roof as their children’s daycare provider.

It is a business strategy that is bound to pay off in the long term: Greater employee retention and less stressed and grateful staff that have a choice to stay in their jobs. 

Kim Moore is the Oregon Business research editor.