A chart illustrates responses to a survey by the Michigan Women’s Commission from 642 participants about whom they would prefer to take care of their children during and post pandemic.

A chart illustrates responses to a survey by the Michigan Women’s Commission from 642 participants about whom they would prefer to take care of their children during and post pandemic.

Graphic by Jason Clancy

Michigan Women’s Commission releases pandemic child care survey results

By: Sarah Wojcik | Metro | Published March 12, 2021


METRO DETROIT — On Feb. 12, the Michigan Women’s Commission released results from a survey that sought to answer how parents were handling child care during the COVID-19 pandemic, who they prefer to provide care during and after the pandemic, and what would make them feel comfortable sending their kids outside the home.

Based on 642 responses from Sept. 16 to Oct. 13, the Survey of Child Care Use During the Pandemic indicated that most parents preferred to care for their kids at home or use family and friends during the pandemic. Almost half indicated a desire to send their children to licensed child care centers after the pandemic.

“What this tells us is that there will soon be a dramatic and immediate surge in demand for licensed child care options at a time when Michigan’s child care infrastructure is already in need of support for staffing, slot availability and overall sustainability,” Danielle Atkinson, a member of the commission and founder of national nonprofit Mothering Justice, said in a prepared statement.

Atkinson lives in Royal Oak with her husband and six children, where she is also the founding co-coordinator of the Royal Oak Multiracial Association.

While child care has always been the top financial concern for women, Atkinson said, the pandemic has exacerbated the issue.

“It’s not something that has been a real priority of government on a federal or state level,” she said. “The pandemic has ripped open the reality and the survey shows that, as well as the need for us to address this on a systemic level.”

Without proper protective equipment and vaccines in place, Atkinson said the survey shows that parents want to keep children close and either watch them themselves or use loved ones instead of sending them to an outside facility.

While the survey did not highlight it, Atkinson said centers nationwide are closing for good due to lack of resources. She added that many such businesses are largely women-owned.

“Women and their families should make decisions based on comfortability and health risks, not economic reasons,” she said. “Another thing the survey highlighted is the need for paid leave.”

Ruth Archer, strategy officer for the Bureau of Labor Market Information and Strategic Initiatives, estimated that more than 125,000 Michigan women left the workforce entirely since February 2020, and the unemployment rate for women in Michigan is double what it was pre-pandemic.

“High quality, affordable child care is critical to the success of Michigan’s children, families and economy,” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said in a prepared statement. “To give working parents a much-needed boost, my executive budget recommendation invests $370 million to significantly lower child care costs, in some cases down to zero.”

Whitmer said the investment in early learning would provide access to quality, affordable child care for 150,000 additional families, and “immediately and directly helps parents continue working while giving the peace of mind to know that their kids can continue to grow and learn.”

The proposed allocation of state and federal funds would temporarily increase the income limit for families to be eligible for state aid for child care, stop co-pays, and raise rates paid to child care providers.

“Michigan’s mothers of color, in particular, have long been sounding an alarm about the unsustainable balance required to work frontline and essential jobs without the availability of flexible, safe and affordable child care options,” Michigan Women’s Commission Chief Strategy Officer Shannon Garrett said in a prepared statement.

The MI Tri-Share Child Care pilot program recently accepted proposals from applicants to serve as regional facilitator hubs to increase access to high quality, affordable health care for working families. Through Tri-Share, the cost of child care would be shared by an employer, the employee and the state of Michigan, with coordination provided regionally by the facilitator hubs.

“The program will operate initially in three regions of the state, including one rural region and one urban or suburban region,” according to the Michigan Women’s Commission. “Public Act 166 of 2020, the authorizing legislation, requires that one region must be located in a city with a population of between 38,000 and 39,000 and in a county with a population of between 172,000 and 173,000 according to the most recent federal decennial census.”

March is Women’s History Month, and the Michigan Women’s Commission’s mission is to alleviate barriers that prevent full and continuous participation in the workforce, primarily costs in time, dollars and energy of caregiving for others.