A child care crisis exists in Marathon County and throughout Wisconsin. This has a negative effect on business. Families looking for quality care are discovering that they cannot find quality child care.

Child care providers leave their positions for better pay and benefits. Child care covering shift work is almost non-existent. Waitlists for infant care are long and cause problems for parents who wish to return to work.

In addition, many children are suffering in substandard care. This adds to short and long-term workforce issues. All these problems negatively impact families at a time when Central Wisconsin needs a young workforce to keep up with the demands of business. Certainly, public policy changes are needed to support child care quality and access so that our workforce is able to grow and prosper.

According to the 2014-2015 Marathon County Life Report, the number of licensed and certified child care providers in Marathon County fell by 15 per cent. In some cases, parents are paying for infant care slots prior to the birth of their child to insure a place for their newborn child. Infant and toddler care in Marathon County costs $160 per week. In Wisconsin as well as the nation, the average annual cost of child care surpasses the cost of a year of college tuition.

Wisconsin child care subsidy funding is among the lowest in the nation. Many low income families who qualify for childcare subsidies do not take advantage of them because they cannot afford the copay. Those who do use subsidies often turn down higher wages or increased hours because of the “subsidy funding cliff” that more than nullifies the increase in wages.

The first three years of a child’s life sets the trajectory for their educational, social and emotional success throughout his/her lifetime. Quality childcare is critical to this development. When families are unable to afford quality care, many rely on less qualified friends and neighbors to watch their children.

Often in these situations, children are set in front of television, exposed to violence and neglect. Children’s experiences in their first 3 years set the base for their lifelong social, emotional and academic success. Our children’s early experiences determine the quality of tomorrow’s workforce. Tell your legislators to support quality child care.