More than 3 in 5 parents do not have a clear plan for child care this Fall, according to our new survey data. But in light of COVID-19, parents are being forced to decide for themselves what is best for their family—though the available options leave parents feeling overwhelmed and unsupported. And this isn’t just a decision families will need to make once. They’ll need to be ready to reassess their child care options as infection rates, school and daycare programs, and personal circumstances continue to change.

That’s why we turned to an expert in simple, data-driven decision making: Emily Oster, New York Times-bestselling author of “Cribsheet: A Data-Driven Guide to Better, More Relaxed Parenting, From Birth to Preschool” and professor of economics at Brown University. We’ve partnered with Emily to develop the COVID-19 Child Care Decision Tool, a free, evidence-based tool for parents to assess the risks, benefits, and their unique circumstances to make the best schooling and child care decisions for their family.

In a story with CNBC, Emily added:

“A lot of parents are having the same kind of experience where they just keep revisiting the question [of schooling] over and over and over again, but without quite figuring out,” economist and parent Emily Oster tells CNBC Make It. “The uncertainty about what is going to happen is really driving a lot of our anxiety.”

“When we make a decision, we’re used to being like, OK, I’m happy with that decision — I feel like that was the right choice,” says Oster, who helped develop the tool. But amid the pandemic, it can feel like there are no choices that you’re happy with. Instead, it may help to at least know that you can arrive at a decision in a thoughtful and measured way, Oster says.

How it works

The COVID-19 Child Care Decision Tool is an interactive framework for parents to assess the risks, benefits, and unique circumstances that factor into their decision to send their children out of the home for school or daycare, or to keep them at home for virtual learning. Its design is based on decision-making frameworks that have been proven to help patients make difficult healthcare decisions.

The COVID-19 Child Care Decision Tool works by educating parents about their options for child care, and then assessing their needs through a series of questions designed to get a clear view into the most important factors that go into back-to-school decision making, including if they have immune-compromised family members, if their child can follow safety precautions like wearing a mask, whether they would need to take public transportation, and more. Once parents have completed their assessment, the COVID-19 Child Care Decision Tool delivers a recommendation for parents, and provides resources for them to put a plan into action.

“Parents are being forced to make difficult choices right now, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a parent who feels particularly great about any of the options in front of them,” said Emily Oster. “While there’s no magic solution, there is a way to feel more in control over the process by which we make these big decisions. By giving parents a clearer framework for weighing the choices, risks and benefits against their own set of values and circumstances, I’m hopeful that we can help them reason their way to more confident decisions.”

Click here to access the COVID-19 Child Care Decision Tool for yourself.

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How HR leadership can use the COVID-19 Child Care Decision Tool to support working parents

As HR leaders, working parents on your staff are turning to you for guidance on how to best navigate the stresses of work and child care during these trying times. With back-to-school on the horizon, the COVID-19 Child Care Decision Tool can be helpful to parents who don’t know where to begin, or find the number of variables overwhelming.

We commissioned a survey of 1,000 U.S. parents, and found that parents with children 5 years and younger are facing the greatest uncertainty, and feel the least supported by their employers. And two-thirds of parents report feeling anxious as they navigate these decisions. And that’s just the start of some of the key takeaways about the state of parenting through COVID-19.

We know from our partners that this uncertainty around child care decision making is also putting unprecedented pressure on HR leaders. We’ve developed a checklist to outline best practices to help working parents that you can start implementing as working parents turn to you for guidance, support, and added benefits to help navigate, in addition to the COVID-19 Child Care Decision Tool—a free resource that you can offer to employees to help them and make them feel supported.

Click here to find out how Maven can help your organization give working parents the tools they need to succeed.

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