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Child Care For City Employees

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ANN ARBOR-On May 5, City Council unanimously passed all but two recommendations from the report of the Advisory Committee on Child Care for City Employees. The recommendations came from a two and one-half year oíd local effort by the City of Ann Arbor to explore low or no cost ways to assist city employees with child care. It consisted of city employees, resource people from the child care community in Ann Arbor, and Council members. The Committee surveyed city employees twice regarding their child care needs and desirable options and found a significant interest in child care assistance. The Committee's report included costs, key benefits and proposed implementation of the specific recommendations. Passage of the Committee's recommendations reflects bipartisan recognition of the need to address the problem of child care in this city. As the initiator of the Advisory Committee and this study of child care needs, and as a participant on the Committee, I am very glad to see Council take some significant action in this direction. Why should the city assist city employees with child care? Employers have found that providing child care assistance can enhance the well-being of the work forcé. It is a sensible way to increase productivity and stress, it leads to lower absenteeism, and aids in recruitment and retention of employees. An explosión of interest in fïnding solutions to child care problems for working parents is taking place. The twoparent nuclear family, with one parent working outside the home, represents a minority of families today. Furthermore, child care is expensive. Noted researchers estímate that child care costs are the fourth highest cost in today's family budget, behind shelter, food and taxes. Demographic trends point to a growing need for child care. In 1982 almost one-half of all ch il dren under six had mothers in paid cmploymcnt. A U.S. Department of Labor report stated that the tastest growing segment of the labor forcé today is the catcgory of mothers of pre-school children. Between 1970 and 1982 the participation of this group in the labor forcé grew by 55%. It is projected that by 1990, 75% of the labor forcé will be women who will have a need for child care if they choose to have children. Many employers across the nation now provide some form of child care service for their employees. In sixteen states, local governmental agencies provide child care in their own buildings. Government employees with children can obtain flexible work schedules in forty-two states, job-sharing in twenty states, and part time jobs with child care benefits in thirty-five states. At the federal level Congress has recognized the changing nature of the United States workforce and is striving to meet demands of the working parent. Congress is presently considering Parental and Medical Leave Acts in order to make new provisions of child care, flex time, and other benefits for working parents. As an employer it is in the City's interests to provide child care assistance to its employees. Over half of all city employees are parents, and of these almost 50% require child care. It is equally important for the City of Ann Arbor to take a leadership role in this arca and to serve as a model for other employers. Some of the key provisions to be implemented are: purchasing an Enchanccd Child Care Information and Referral Service that will provide comprehensive, personal service in helping parents select and retain quality child care arrangcments at a cost of $17,000 to the city; the development of a Career-Family Assistance BrochureHandbook for cunrent, newly hired, and prospective employees that highlights city policies and practices of special interest to employees trying to balance career and family responsibilities; emphasizing to city department heads and city employees that flexible scheduling, flexible work place and job sharing options are available; continuing to work with the Joint ChamberCity Child Care Committee to survey needs and develop a child care project in the Downtown Development Área (DDA) to further enchance the downtown as a vital place for working people; revising the Employees Assistance Program (EAP) to help with child care problems; and ongoing advocacy for quality child care services, especially for low and moderate income families in the community. The two recommendations tabled to the June 2nd Council meeting to allow for further study are the Voucher Program and the Space Dedication Program. The Voucher Program would allow an employee to spend benefit funds on a child care voucher, rather than on another unwanted or unneeded benefit. The Space Dedication recommendation asked the City Planning Commission to evalúate three options for providing on-site day care facilitics in major new developments. NOTE: The final report and recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Child Care for City Employees is on file with the City Clerk at City Hall and can be purchased at a minimal cosl


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