Many inspired entrepreneurs draw from their own personal experiences when it comes to developing a new business and mission. Others wake up with a lightning bolt of realization or are stricken by inspiration to make the world better. For me, it took a stroke of luck—and danger—to lead me to my true passions. I had just given up a corporate career in New York City and moved to Houston to start a new life with my daughter when I got into a devastating car accident. This near-death experience encouraged me to take a long, hard look at my life, my passions and my goals. The constant struggle as a single mother to find a reliable caregiver for my daughter made me want to invest in childcare service outside of traditional “working” hours. After researching why many childcare facilities were failing, Adventure Kids Playcare was finally born.
While I’ve been lucky enough to bring hourly, drop-in childcare to 18 locations across three states and counting, there is still an ongoing problem with access to childcare in America. For parents who don’t work the traditional 8-hour work day, finding reliable child care to accommodate their schedules is near impossible. One of the most crucial, yet overlooked components of childcare, is keeping the parents’ needs in mind, too. I decided to change the narrative in order to include all parents of all socioeconomic statuses and career paths.
Parenting is not one-size-fits-all, and childcare providers need to diversify their offerings and systems in a way that can accommodate and meet these parents’ needs, so that they may meet their children’s needs. Before starting my own business, something I noticed in my prior jobs was how many daycare services charge monthly fees or retainers, regardless of how many days a week, or even how many hours, children spend at the daycare center. I created a concept that is pay-by-the-hour down to the minute, meaning parents can fall back on reliable care for the biggest or smallest of errands to run. Parents who don’t have the luxury of anticipating regular, fixed working hours can pick up shifts last minute and be able to run their kid to the nearest AKP. Even if it’s a quick shift or a last-minute trip to the grocery store, the parent is not punished for seeking out last-minute care for their child. We are the service providers, meaning it is our job to serve families in the best way we can. Parents should not have to bend over backwards or fork over an arm or a leg to get their child’s most basic needs met.
Providing childcare is so much more than having enough slots at a daycare facility. Whenever we are faced with a national “crisis,” there are often several causes and effects rather than a singular problem. Accessibility—and inaccessibility—can mean so many different things to people. For some, the crux of the ongoing childcare crisis is the fact that most of the general population cannot afford any kind of care, stay-at-home or otherwise; for others, the main issue might be that there are very few licensed daycare centers near the family home or place of work. To some, the biggest problem with the child care industry could be the lack of support for stay-at-home caregivers, while for others, it is an issue of childcare professionals who are leaving the field due to inadequate pay and benefits. There is no easy answer because there’s no single issue to point the finger at. Perhaps it’s a combination of new, current economic problems and longstanding structural issues with the childcare industry itself, and how we view things like paternity leave and maternity leave. Maybe, to fix the problem, we need to fix the system.
As an expert in the childcare industry, I am of the opinion that great structural change on a micro and macro level needs to take place across the country to remedy the issue of inaccessible childcare. It needs to be able to meet the needs of all kinds of different family structures, no matter their economic status or income. We are raising the next generation of world leaders and need to do our part to make sure they have safe places to learn and exist. It’s a child’s job to be the kid. Us adults have to do the rest.