Childcare survey results show stress on families, businesses

An end to emergency care funding in the state is expected to leave over 130,000 Ohio children without access to childcare this year.

Hancock County is already experiencing a shortage of childcare providers, which is stressing families and challenging the local workforce. The lack of availability is so pronounced that for every one spot of childcare available in Hancock County, an additional 10 children are waiting.

These findings and more are part of a study recently released by the Hancock County Childcare Collaborative. The March 2024 Policy Matters Ohio report on childcare defines Hancock County as a childcare desert, further cementing the need in the community.

“The data shows that the childcare crisis in Hancock County is real and is having an outsized impact on families and businesses alike,” said Randall Galbraith, director of Hancock County Job and Family Services. “Hancock County only has 24 licensed childcare providers, of which seven are small, in-home providers. The consequence is that families are forced to use unlicensed and possibly substandard caregivers or forego work opportunities. In turn, local employers have a smaller pool of talent from which to find employees.

“All in all, the outcome is a loss of opportunities for children to receive quality childcare that gives them a boost in their school performance, the loss of the ability to make personal economic gains for parents, and a shortfall in qualified employees for local businesses. Further, the trends indicate that the problem is getting worse, not better over time,” Galbraith added.

In the coming months, the childcare collaborative will share data related to the current state of childcare in Hancock County and develop an action plan to address needs.

“Access to reliable, quality childcare is essential to families in their quest for financial stability and has a ripple effect on the entire community,” said Angela DeBoskey, CEO of United Way of Hancock County. “As a community, we need to make a strategic effort to recruit and retain childcare workers to help support families and shore up the local workforce.”

The study is informed by a communitywide survey conducted last spring which polled over 600 parents, prospective parents, adults with grown children and people who are raising family members’ children, such as grandparents. A separate survey was completed by over 50 local business leaders.
The collaborative is led by representatives from The Findlay-Hancock County Community Foundation, United Way of Hancock County, Blanchard Valley Health System, Hancock County Job and Family Services and Findlay Family YMCA, which is the largest childcare provider in the county. Teachers, childcare providers, employers, government leaders, nonprofit organizations and funders are also involved.

In both surveys, it was clear that a lack of childcare options is straining the workforce, as parents struggle to find or afford childcare, and may miss work due to a sick child or an unexpected closure by their provider. Over 80% of respondents from the business community said their business operations had been at least moderately affected by the local childcare crisis. The results of the survey are outlined in the report.

These results, combined with the expected end to emergency care funding in Ohio, are driving local leaders to consider several countywide solutions. The majority will be focused on short-term (five years or less) goals that, if successfully completed, will result in increased availability, affordability and quality of childcare in Hancock County.

“Taking care of children in our community is a priority for all of us, regardless of if we represent nonprofits, schools, government, or individual families,” said Brian Treece, President & CEO of The Community Foundation. “The Foundation is proud to be part of this collaborative to address a critical need in our community. Together, we will continue to take steps forward to improve this system in Hancock County.”

The full report can be read here.