Living Almost Large has been looking at what to cut when if one/both parents get laid off. Today her question is about when to pull out of child care. This post started as a comment, but makes more sense as a post.
I work with child care providers and our local government. The first thing parents should do is see if they qualify for child care assistance. It's called something different in ever state, but your local human services or child care resource & referral* should have information. Most states offer a subsidy based on sliding scale of income. As a part of the stimulus, $2 billion went to the child care development block grant which includes subsidies for child care for families in these situations.
The next step is to talk to your child care director. Let them know what your situation is and ask if there is flexibility with their enrollment. If you go part time will you be able to go back to full time? Can you go part time for 2 months and then return to your full time slot?** If you pull out is there preference for former families to get back in? In the situation mentioned in LAL's post, where the preschool leads to a spot in a private K-12 school will your family still retain preference? Some centers/child care homes are really down*** while others are really full. Directors understand what's going on with the economy and you probably aren't the first family at the center/child care home that's faced this choice.
If you're at a great center/home that your kids love pulling them out shouldn't be your first or second action. Hopefully the parent who isn't working is applying for jobs, interviewing, etc-all things that are harder to do if your child is at home. I can't tell you the number of calls I've gotten from panicked parents who get a call on Monday for an interview on Tuesday and have no care for their kids. Additionally, parent's getting laid off is also stressful for kids. Mom/dad are stressed and more likely to snap. Their home/regular activities may be changing as parents scale back. Child care can be a place of stability for your kids.
*put your zipcode in on the map to the right.
**giving the director a time span for gonig back to full time may make it easier for them to hold your spot.
***at least 5 of the home providers we work with have called in to say they have no children.