© 2024 Ideastream Public Media

1375 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio 44115
(216) 916-6100 | (877) 399-3307

WKSU is a public media service licensed to Kent State University and operated by Ideastream Public Media.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

More Ohioans opt for informal child care than before the pandemic, Census report finds

A photo shows a group of young children at a preschool.
Data indicate that the number of children attending day care or preschool remains lower than it was before the COVID-19 pandemic.

More Ohio children were staying with a parent or relative last year than were before the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a U.S. Census Bureau Household Pulse survey conducted in September through December 2022.

That’s a shift from before the pandemic, when a larger proportion of families enrolled their children in day care and child care centers.

The slow return of children to day cares and preschools continues to affect early childhood development and the economy, said Emily Muttillo of the Center for Community Solutions, a Cleveland-based think tank.

Early data shows some Northeast Ohio children may not be learning the fundamentals they need to enter kindergarten, she said.

“If kids are not in high-quality early child care, they may not be exposed to those early literacy skills and building those early literacy skills, which is then going to put them behind when they start kindergarten," Muttillo said.

Muttillo said the pandemic forced families to rethink child care. Some found a better fit — for example, staying home, working variable schedules, or leaning on a family member.

In the national survey, the majority of respondents said they didn't have any formal child care arrangements, likely meaning at least one parent stayed home. Some parents might be managing child care while working remote jobs or attending school, the U.S. Census Bureau said.

More parents staying home to take care of children means a decline in workforce participation, which could impact Northeast Ohio's economy, said Muttillo.

The child care industry — disrupted during the pandemic when centers closed and day care workers left for higher-paying jobs — still hasn't bounced back, she said.

“We're seeing availability issues in Cuyahoga County," Muttillo said. "A center may have space for toddlers, but a parent may need care for an infant. And so sometimes there's that mismatch of what's available and what's needed.”

She said families in rural Ohio have the biggest challenges in finding convenient child care, with some having to drive 30 to 40 minutes to reach a day care with an opening.

Taylor Wizner is a health reporter with Ideastream Public Media.