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Stanford Graduate Students’ Biggest Assignment: Solving the Child Care Crisis

Two students at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, Olivia Rosenthal and Sarah Alexander, spent a year talking to parents, social workers, child care providers, and employers to learn more about the nation’s "unprecedented child care crisis," as Rosenthal told the school in an article on their work. "There has been very little innovation for lower-income families to be given the choice to take care of their children however they want to."

Their work underscored the importance of informal care—how neighbors, family members, and friends help many parents care for their children. These relationships can be incredibly fulfilling, but they are also tenuous. "It was really apparent to us how precarious a lot of these situations are, especially for single parents," Alexander said. "The smallest disruption sends the whole thing falling. There’s really no backup plan."

Rosenthal and Alexander unearthed a staggering number of challenges parents face when navigating child care, like finding available options and benefits, accessing extended or flexible daycare hours, all while shouldering immense stress trying to make it all work. They call for mental and emotional support for parents, and for conversations around universal child care to take into account the needs of families with children ages 0-2 (not solely focus on children old enough to participate in 3k and Pre-K programs).

Take a look:

Can Childcare Be Fixed? These Students Went Looking for Solutions

Jim is a 34-year-old warehouse worker whose wife died of COVID several months ago, leaving him to care for their 4-year-old daughter alone. He is new to the California town where he lives, and his closest family member is hundreds of miles away.

Because Jim (a pseudonym) works the 4 a.m. to noon shift, no local daycare facility can take his child. Desperate for help, he finally persuaded the neighbor of a friend to watch his little girl on weekdays, but he is perpetually anxious about what will happen if that arrangement falls through. “I can’t lose my job, and I can’t bring my kid to work,” he lamented to a pair of researchers who interviewed him. “What should I do?"

It’s a story familiar to millions of parents who struggle with childcare needs, and to Sarah Alexander and Olivia Rosenthal, the second-year MBA students at Stanford GSB who interviewed Jim and scores of parents like him.

Image via Stanford Graduate School of Business


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