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New reports highlight the struggles of working parents in San Diego

A group of San Diego agencies came together to release two independent reports which detail factors facing parents, policymakers and employers about childcare issues

SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — Living in San Diego can be tough to afford, especially if you have a family to care for. Two new reports highlight how San Diego County's governments, school districts, workforce agencies and local employers can boost economic growth by supporting working parents. 

Several San Diego agencies released the reports Monday. A group of parenting, business and education agencies came together to announce the two independent reports which detail factors facing parents, policymakers, and employers about childcare issues for working parents. 

The San Diego Workforce Partnership and The San Diego Foundation, in a report titled "Workforce + Child Care," link child care and economic development, noting that in 70% of San Diego families with children under 12, both parents in the household are working. Only 9% of companies in San Diego provide on-site childcare.

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Because child care options are scarce, inconvenient, unaffordable and of varying quality in the San Diego region, working parents can be forced to leave their jobs, not enter the workforce at all or struggle to balance a career and childrearing, according to the report.

Fabiana Moteiro had such a hard time finding a daycare for her daughter that she quit her job in the medical field to start her own.

"Everyone is desperate," said Moteiro. "It's a desperation."

Employers overwhelmingly say they value supporting employees with families to improve talent attraction, retention and productivity, but small employers -- which comprise the great majority of employers in the region -- are often unsure how to provide meaningful support at an affordable cost, the report found.

Single mom Sylvia Pena works two jobs, but in the past had to give up work altogether because it made more sense to care for her sons from home.

"Sometimes, when you have a part time job and you want to pay child care, it ends up being the same as what you're earning," said Pena.

The authors concluded the optimal child care and workforce system requires the county and city governments, school districts, employers, funders, parents and nonprofit agencies to join efforts in a half-dozen areas, including expanding the supply of child care; making more jobs friendly; and making use of all available state or federal funding.

"We have parents really struggling to hold down jobs because their child care arrangements are so tenuous or expensive. That means we're leaving talent on the table, which we simply cannot do in this economy when employers are desperate to fill jobs," said Peter Callstrom, president and CEO of the San Diego Workforce Partnership.

"When we start to prioritize child care as a region, we will reap dividends for our current workforce and employers as well as for our future workforce -- our children," he said.

The San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce report, "Supporting Working Families," covers employer perceptions about benefits provided to support working families.

According to the report, employers offering a range of benefits -- including parental leave, lactation rooms and child care -- "gain a competitive edge when it comes to candidate recruitment, team retention and increased productivity."

The analysis offers seven considerations for employers to support working families and recommends the following three low- and no-cost ways they can get started:

-- allow employees to use pre-tax dollars to pay for childcare;

-- create a peer group for parents; and

-- establish clear boundaries between work and home.

Jerry Sanders, San Diego Regional Chamber president and CEO, said workplace culture "is more and more important to building strong, lasting, and productive teams."

"As workplaces continue to evolve, the more employers can stay ahead of the curve and meet the needs of their workers, the happier and more productive those employees will be," he said. "If we can raise awareness across the region of how to best support working families, we can make great strides in our success as a region."

The groups and individuals that released the report include: Parent Voices San Diego, Educational Enrichment Systems, The San Diego Foundations, San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, San Diego Workforce Partnership, Neighborhood House Association and a parent working with the San Diego Police Department Western Division. 

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