Employees’ inability to secure quality, affordable childcare has significantly impacted businesses and the economy – across the San Diego region and beyond.

We know that childcare and economic development are linked. According to the 2020 Workforce + Childcare report, the annual national cost of lost earnings, productivity and revenue due to the childcare crisis is about $57 billion dollars.

With San Diego being the 13th most expensive metro in the nation, the average price of childcare for two young children in the San Diego region consumes 40 percent of the budget for a typical family of four.

Parents are leaving the workforce because they can’t find affordable childcare, or they’re settling for low-quality care that isn’t good for the development of their children.

Social Advocates for Youth (SAY) San Diego believes that employers have a special role to play in addressing this crisis, knowing that workforce and childcare are two vital components of a thriving San Diego region.

“While it’s important to advocate for employers to offer workplace childcare options for their employees, here at SAY San Diego we envisioned a bolder move — to do it ourselves, motivate other employers and shed light on ways to make workplace childcare work in a sustainable way,” shared Nancy Gannon Hornberger, SAY San Diego President & CEO.

With support from The San Diego Foundation, including a two-year grant commitment from the Guy C. Clum Fund awarded as part of the launch of the Early Childhood Initiative in 2018, SAY San Diego decided to offer on-site childcare services for staff and community. Now, they want to partner with other local employers seeking practical ways to explore on-site childcare for their workers.

Ideating On-site Childcare

SAY San Diego

On-site childcare refers to “childcare on or very near an employer’s premises.” In a 2020 survey of over 400 local employers by the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, of the 9 percent of employers offering onsite childcare, 53 percent found it “extremely helpful,” and 25 percent found it “very helpful” to staff.

But even employers with high interest and clear goals for on-site childcare may not know all the requirements and regulations.

Before SAY San Diego opened their Early Childhood Center, an analysis was completed to assess whether their facilities could offer on-site care. When searching for new headquarters, their leadership team prioritized sites with conditions that would ensure the ability to adapt the existing space for childcare. Facilities on the ground floor, located in zones permitted for childcare facilities, and the ability to make changes required to offer childcare were all considerations.

SAY San Diego also wanted to ensure that the Center’s characteristics would be valued by both staff and community families. The leadership team gathered staff opinions on a range of topics through various means, which led to SAY San Diego’s decision to offer year-round, full-day, Monday through Friday care for both infants and preschoolers.

Affordability for parents and sustainability for the organization were also considerations when planning for the center.

“While understanding how to best balance the short-term financial impacts and assure long-term sustainability for the organization, while providing affordable high-quality onsite childcare, our experiences and thought processes emerged and evolved,” shared Jane Drover, Chief Financial Officer at SAY San Diego.

“Having successfully navigated the challenges and now seeing the successes, SAY San Diego’s team is well positioned and excited to be a powerful and valuable partner for employers considering on-site care. We want to share our knowledge.”

The Vital Role of Employers

Employers can improve morale, presenteeism and retention when they make a proactive effort to support their employees with childcare.

As a local employer and nonprofit with over 300 employees, SAY San Diego is ready to serve as a guide and partner to employers seeking to design, set up and operate on-site childcare. “What It Takes,” a booklet developed by SAY San Diego, is a helpful tool for employers to understand the general process.

The organization even offers a free site analysis to help determine if on-site childcare is right for each employer.

Ensuring equitable access to quality, affordable childcare aligns with The San Diego Foundation’s Strategic Plan priority to build resilient communities, which includes increasing access to quality early care and education.

“Employers are in a unique position to help expand childcare options that parents find attractive,” shared Martin Huici, Social Enterprise Manager at SAY San Diego.

Employers have an opportunity to change the narrative around childcare for working families. Parents must have childcare to work, and quality childcare lets parents work dependably with peace of mind.

Next Steps

Whether as consultants on what it takes to design and set up on-site childcare, or as on-site childcare operators, “We’re here to help!” Nancy emphasized. “We are ready to partner with employers who are looking to explore on-site childcare for their organization and their staff,” Martin added.

“We believe that the future workforce will have diverse, evolving needs and employer-supported childcare will be essential to meeting those needs,” Nancy shared.

The organization encourages all employers looking for next steps to reach out via Martin Huici: martin.huici@saysandiego.org.

Learn more about The San Diego Foundation’s Early Childhood Initiative and commitment to increase access to affordable, quality early care for children in San Diego, strengthen families and support a competitive regional workforce.