On-Site Child Care: A Solution to Work and
Life Issues for Employees
(ARA) -- In boardrooms of some of Americas most prominent companies it is business as
usual. But not all decisions being made in the executive offices involve mergers,
technology advancements or corporate restructuring. Rather, some discussion involves
decisions to integrate work and family issues, access to quality child care among them.
For Diane Cushman, Manager of Workforce Partnering at The St. Paul Companies, an insurance
company headquartered in St. Paul, Minn., it is her job to "concern herself with
issues that employees face relative to personal life that prevent them from contributing
to their full potential at work."
The St. Paul discovered that access to quality, affordable child care was a barrier for
employees returning to work after having a child. "We determined that to have the
best of the person, we had to have the whole person," said Cushman. "So in the
best interest of the company, and to help employees resolve personal issues quickly, we
got into the business of providing work/life programs."
Polly Stephany, an underwriting analyst at The St. Paul, said she could not stand the
thought of leaving her son 20 minutes away. "The knowledge that he is close, that in
any situation I can be there immediately, is conducive to being a more productive
In fact, nearly 10 million children are enrolled in day care nationwide. For families
earning $1,200 to $2,999 per month, child care costs are 12 percent of their monthly
income (Census Bureau of Labor Statistics).
National figures estimate that employers lose $3 billion annually for child-care
related absences. Many argue that on-site child care alleviates some of these costs to
Mark Cohn, CEO of Damark International, Inc., heads one of Minnesota's 35 companies that
offer on-site child care. "Our center allows us to participate in an important
solution that helps employees balance the complexity of work and family, while offering
the assurance of quality care for their children."
While both The St. Paul and Damark offer on-site child care, their programs are
different. Each is run by Childrens Home Society of Minnesota (CHSM). "We partner
with companies to help them from their first thought of a child care program, through
delivery of the services," said Jackie Olafson, director of the Child Care Division
"We worked with both companies to develop the most appropriate center for their
needs," she said. "The corporate culture of the company plays an important role
in the type of environment that is a fit for that center."
The issue of quality, affordable child care has become front and center on the national
political scene as well. President Clinton recently proposed a $21.7 billion child care
package. The package would eliminate income taxes for a single parent with one child with
an income of $25,000 and child care costs of $2,500 and a married couple with two
children, an income of $35,000 and child care costs of $4,050. The President's proposal
also offers a tax break to companies that offer on-site care.
Today many businesses face recruitment and retention issues, asking how to attract and
keep the best and brightest. For some, on-site child care is a valuable employee benefit
as well as a sound business decision.
"It is important for a business to think about its responsibility to understand
the family issues faced by its workforce as well as the larger issues," said Cohn.
"Damark invested in on-site child care because it was the right thing to do."
For the company, this process takes time. Childrens Home Society started working with
The St. Paul two years before their on-site center opened. Once a company recognizes its
interest in assessing on-site child care as an option, an organization like Childrens Home
Society of Minnesota can step in to provide guidance in development of the physical site,
and partner with the company throughout the startup of the center. "On-site care is
not the answer for every business. A company must do its homework to determine if it is
the answer for them," says Olafson. "The company should look at needs
assessment, cost analysis, space needs, references and provider selection," Olafson
"We profiled consumers and looked at the program and tried to match the two as
best we could," said Cushman. Our research showed that concern for security and
safety were high, as well as employees accessibility to their children. This information
helped us design our facility."
For some companies providing on-site child care does not make sense, but partnering
with a community program may be an appropriate solution.
In Rochester, Minn. there was a shortage of quality, affordable infant and toddler
care. Tutti Sherlock, executive director of Child Care Resource and Referral, Inc., said
they went to IBM and asked for help.
The result was CHSM Valley High East, which was built next to the IBM facility. The
center opened in 1991 and serves 70 children. "In this case the community partnered
with private industry to create a solution," she said.
Parents who benefit from on-site child care can't say enough about it. Jacqueline
Regis, an employee at The St. Paul wrote a note of thanks to the center's director saying
"I am so very appreciative of the exceptional, professional and caring environment
you create. One worry I don't have during the day is whether my daughter is being taken
care of. I don't take this for granted."
For more information, Jackie Olafson (612) 646-7771 or (800) 952-9302.
Courtesy of Article Resource Association, http://www.aracopy.com