Finding affordable and dependable childcare remains one of the biggest economic issues facing families in Indiana and also has a big impact on businesses. Childcare-related absences and employee turnover is estimated to cost Hoosier businesses $1.8 billion annually and Indianapolis-based nonprofit Child Care Answers is looking to help. “We know that families, when they go to work, they want their children in a safe place. But if they’re not or they’re unsure of the capabilities of those providers, they’re not going to perform their best,” said Executive Director Mollie Smith.
In an interview on Inside INdiana Business with Gerry Dick, Smith said the impact of childcare on businesses cannot be overlooked.
“Employers know that looking out for their employee is going to definitely help their bottom line,” said Smith. “We know that when you lose an employee, there’s all those overhead costs when you have to replace them – training, overtime – all of those things go to the employer, so quality childcare has a huge piece in that.”
Child Care Answers was established in 1985 as part of Early Learning Indiana before spinning out as a standalone organization. The nonprofit received its 501(c)3 designation earlier this year and Smith says the organization works to help families in Marion, Hamilton and Hendricks counties find the best childcare for their kids whether the parents are working or in school.
“We also work with families if they’re having challenges with their children or they need some support…and so we know that if we can support them, we’re supporting the greater community,” she said. “We also work with employers to try to help them implement family-friendly policies and then lastly, we work with childcare providers opening their own business, making sure that they’re going to have a sustainable and successful business.”
Smith says referrals for childcare skyrocketed at the beginning of the pandemic as providers that families had previously used closed or essential workers who worked unusual hours had trouble finding childcare options. She says the pandemic also had an impact on providers themselves.
“A problem that we already knew that childcare businesses had a very thin margin of being sustainable was just exacerbated by the pandemic. So, we have a lot of grants that have come up through the state and other private organizations to support these businesses to keep them open. A lot of folks are having trouble staffing their childcare just like every other business.”
Smith says as businesses start to get back to normal, human resources representatives have contacted Child Care Answers looking for ways to help their employees going forward. She says the pandemic has brought the issues of childcare to light, which has led to an increased demand for the nonprofit’s services.