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The high cost of child care is leaving Idaho families in crisis

Posted at 10:29 PM, Aug 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-12 01:23:44-04

IDAHO — Editor's note: this is part one of a two-part series examining child care issues in Idaho. The second part will air Wednesday evening.

While it feels like the pandemic is changing everything around us, one thing remains a constant: children need child care. But for many parents in Idaho, that is easier said than done — like in Anselme Sadiki’s case.

“My wife and I we both work in essential services, so therefore, our daughter had to basically do the virtual learning, but we couldn’t stay at home. We had to be at work," said Sadiki, who is also the executive director at Children's Home Society of Idaho.

But the problem persisted when the virus shut down summer camps -- as well as many child care facilities, which were already in short supply.

“We were forced to basically consult Care.com so that we can actually hire a babysitter to stay with our daughter while we are at work," said Sadiki.

Now, in the case of many Idaho school districts, families face a future filled with remote learning.

Idaho's economy loses nearly half a million dollars annually due to a lack of child care programs, according to a study released this spring by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, and it says that most of that money is lost from employees missing or leaving work because of child care struggles.

For many, the pandemic has only deepened the child care dilemma, culminating in what Sadiki is calling an increase in anxiety among parents.

And he would know; he and his team at the behavioral health center Children’s Home Society of Idaho have been helping Idaho families manage the anxiety throughout the pandemic.

“And that anxiety stems from them having the challenge of figuring out exactly whether or not they should choose to stay at home so they can take care of their kids who can’t go anywhere, or go to work knowing that they have to figure out how to support their kids," said Sadiki.

So how much does child care cost? Well that depends.

Child care providers earn $9.77 an hour on average, according to the Idaho Youth Association for the Education of Young Children. But a calculation for the Boise area on Care.com shows full-time nannies currently cost families even more, at a rough estimate of $15 an hour -- or in Sadiki's experience, $18 dollars an hour.

“Which translates into $2,880 a month! That's essentially my entire paycheck," said Sadiki.

This, he said, is especially problematic for low-wage earning parents and their children.

“That minimum wage is not gonna be enough, not even close enough to be able to cover for the child care," said Sadiki.

He said, in some cases, this is resulting in parents quitting or reducing hours at their jobs. He said he suspects this is contributing to joblessness and the fact that laid-off Idahoans recently filed five times more claims than during the same week in 2019, according to recent Idaho Department of Labor data.

He also suspects this is leading to an increase in Idaho kids being left alone for hours each day.

“Two, three years down the road, we are probably going to look down and remember that kids were so much affected by the isolation," said Sadiki.

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare does have a child care assistance program for those eligible.

And Governor Little did make emergency grants available for child care business owners.

But the question becomes: are these programs meeting the need?

Wednesday on Idaho News 6, we will hear what Sadiki is calling for from the governor’s office, and how they’re responding to this in order to mitigate any harm to our families and the high rate of joblessness in Idaho.