Local News

Corporate Child Care Paying Off In More Ways Than One

Posted February 17, 1999

— It is not easy to balance parenting and a career, but some companies are trying to ease that burden.

A recent survey shows about 9 percent of employers across the country offer child care, either on-site or nearby.

The companies not only want to help their employees, they want to help their bottom line.

One working Cary mom used to be concerned about leaving her kids in day care. But now, with two children in child care at the company where she works, Betsy McDowell has peace of mind.

"I can know that when I'm working, if they need to call me just to ask a question, they can have me on the phone immediately, and I can be down here at anytime," she said.

For McDowell, it is just one of the benefits of working atSAS Institutein Cary.

SAS subsidizes child care for 500 children at three facilities, two of which are on-site, the other is nearby.

The location makes it convenient for parents to see their kids.

"Probably most of the other dads that I know see their kids in the morning and at night, and I can come over here and have lunch with him," says SAS employee Brian Perkinson. "I take him to lunch once a week and sometimes I stop in as I'm passing by, so it's great."

Not only are the facilities convenient, they are also less expensive than most. SAS parents are charged $250 a month -- about half the going rate at other day care centers inWake County. And with the caregiver-child ratio as low as 1-to-3 in the infant program, the care their children get is top of the line.

"I find them to almost, without exception, to have a higher quality than the average child care program," says Stephanie Fanjul, the director ofthe N.C. Division of Child Development.

Fanjul says only about 50 companies in North Carolina provide on-site child care, but the ones that do are high quality.

"It's not because they have better people," Fanjul said. "It's because they have more funds into the system invested in it, in order to improve the quality."

So why invest the funds in child care? For SAS, the answer lies in its philosophy that work-life issues are workplace issues as well.

"We sort of understand that a lot of issues that people deal with outside of work, and child care is certainly a big one, really do affect their performance when they're on the job," says SAS spokesperson John Dornan.

SAS believes not only does it have better workers, it has happier workers too, which is reflected in its employee turnover rate of only 4 percent. But corporate child care is not for every employer.

"For some companies, they don't have enough folks who could use it," Fanjul said. "And for some companies, they have people who are traveling a great deal, and it doesn't work for folks who travel."

While Fanjul admits it is not feasible for all companies, she says the need for quality child care is significant, and more businesses could play a huge role in meeting that need.

Most companies that offer corporate child care have a high percentage of women in top management positions.


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