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Monroe County Parent Poll: Child care affordability, pandemic-related school disruptions, and mental health concerns

Rochester non-profit The Children’s Agenda recently released the results of a poll that surveyed 400 Monroe County parents about issues their children and families have faced and the solutions they support.

Key issues and proposed solutions addressed in the February 2022 Monroe County Parent Poll fall into three categories: Parents’ concerns about affording and accessing child care resources, COVID-19 pandemic disruptions in schools, and mental health impacts of the pandemic.

Affording and accessing child care

44% of parents polled said the pandemic has had a negative impact on their family’s income. Parents without a college degree and women were more likely to say they’ve lost income versus their college-educated and male counterparts.

Half of parents with children ages 0 – 12 years said the pandemic has made it difficult to coordinate child care.

Half of parents with children ages 0 – 12 years said child care is a significant cost to their families, with all forms of child care (i.e. family-based or center-based programs; nanny, babysitter, family member, friend or neighbor; after-school or extended-day program) being seen as expensive.

The cost burdens of child care were felt similarly across all parent demographics, with no notable difference based on where parents lived, their education level, race/ethnicity, or gender.

In terms of solutions, 90% of parents think child tax credits are helpful, 89% say more after-school programs are helpful, and 87% think support for basic needs (i.e. food, housing, employment, health, etc.) are helpful.

Pandemic disruptions in schools

58% of parents in Rochester and 52% of parents in the suburbs with school-aged children said at least one of their children has fallen behind in school as a result of the pandemic. Seven out of 10 parents of children with developmental delays or disabilities found at least one of their children have fallen behind.

In terms of solutions, The Children’s Agenda found there was near-universal agreement among parents that the following actions from schools would be helpful:

  • Involved more parents in planning for school-sponsored activities and programming
  • Provided regular contact with or access to their child’s teacher
  • Provided regular contact w/ or access to school counselor
  • Provided more after-school programs
  • Provided materials and resources to support children with delays and disabilities

Additionally, a majority of parents support increasing school diversity and reducing suspensions.

88% of Rochester parents and 68% of suburb parents said they think it is important for their child’s school to increase student diversity. 88% of Rochester parents and 65% of suburb parents said they think it is important for their child’s school to increase teacher and staff diversity.

73% of Rochester parents and 58% of suburb parents support eliminating or reducing suspensions for child in kindergarten through third grade.

Mental health impact of pandemic

According to The Children’s Agenda, five out of 10 parents across the country say at least one of their children has struggled with mental health issues during the pandemic. Among those with teenagers, it is six out of 10 parents. Among parents of children with developmental delays or disabilities, it is seven out of 10 parents.

Nearly one out of every three parents of school-aged children say their child’s school does not have enough social service or health resources to support their child.

Four out of 10 parents in Rochester say improving neighborhood safety is one of the most important issues to address, along with improving academics in area schools.

Public policy agenda

Based on parents’ responses, the following policy changes are needed, said The Children’s Agenda:

  • Expanding child tax credits at state and federal level
  • Dedicating $5 billion to move New York towards a universal, affordable, quality child care system that compensates providers and reflects actual cost of care
  • Restoring and increasing funding of quality after-school programs
  • Reducing wait time for children who need need developmental services by increasing reimbursement rates for providers for Early Intervention and Preschool Special Education
  • Increasing mental health supports in the Rochester City School District by investing $30 million in restorative practices, $5 million in Help Zones, and $5 million in additional mental health supports

You can support these efforts by joining the The Children’s Agenda Action Network.

Rochester parents can join either of the non-profit’s two family advocacy groups by calling (585) 256-2620 for more information.