If you've got kids and a job, you think about childcare a lot—like every weekday. And if your job doesn't pay so well, you've got a big problem, since full-time childcare costs more than college in 31 states.
Despite the pervasive stress and lost opportunity caused by this problem, we don't hear so much about foundation efforts to tackle the childcare challenge. Human service funders have so many other, more urgent fish to fry—like healthcare, food, and housing—that childcare needs tend to get short shrift, while funders focused on economic mobility often have their hands full supporting workforce development and education.
Of course, funders don't entirely ignore childcare, given its central role in enabling work, and one big foundation that cares about this issue is the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, which makes sense given that the foundation says it "places the optimal development of children at the center of all we do."
You won't find an explicit Kellogg grantmaking program focused on childcare, but the foundation has been on this funding beat for many years, sticking with it even as attention to the issue has waxed and waned—yet another example of how foundations aren't as flighty and faddish as critics often suggest.
Economic security is one lens through which Kellogg views the childcare issue, and some recent grants have funded childcare efforts with the explicit goal of helping low-income workers get ahead.
For example, in June, Kellogg gave a $770,000 grant to the Women’s Housing and Economic Development Corporation (WHEDco) in Bronx, New York, to expand its Home-Based Childcare Training Institute. For twenty years, the institute has worked to "transform women’s informal childcare work into paid positions as licensed home-based childcare providers," while also creating more childcare options for low-income families in the Bronx.
Sounds like a smart investment, right? On the one hand, Kellogg money will help more women get childcare jobs or start their own home-based businesses; on the other, it will ensure that more Bronx women have a place to put their kids when they head to work.
Another recent Kellogg grant worth spotlighting, which has the same strategy, is an award of $500,000 to the Restaurant Opportunities Center United for the purpose of developing a childcare cooperative that will (1) allow mothers who are restaurant workers to access childcare, and (2) create jobs for low-wage childcare workers.
No working American is immune to the financial challenges that childcare costs present. But for the country's restaurant workers, who regularly struggle with low wages (often below the federally mandated minimum) and the uncertainty of an income earned through tips, not to mention tricky schedules, childcare is a particularly nettlesome problem. So Kellogg has zeroed in on the right sector in this case.
Much is made of how social supports have never caught up with the reality that most American women work, and a growing number are single parents. The rubber really hits the road when it comes to childcare, so it's a bit mystifying that more big foundations don't fund in this area. Kudos to Kellogg for recognizing the centrality of the issue.
Another bright spot to consider in all this is that early childhood education has become a major focus of many funders lately. And, as any parent knows, pre-school is an essential form of childcare—albeit one that doesn't kick in until after the first two or three years of a child's life. So maybe one thing that's happened is that childcare, which can sound like warehousing kids and has often been a tough sell in the United States, has essentially been rebranded in the loftier guise of early childhood education.
Speaking of ECE: Yes, Kellogg is on that case, too.