Hurricane Harvey - the hidden childcare disaster

On August 25, 2017, Hurricane Harvey made landfall on the Texas coast and brought historic devastation. We all saw photos of floodwaters in Houston and Beaumont, and wind destruction on the southern Texas coast. What many of us did not see was another major cost to the Houston economy: childcare. The Houston Independent School District was closed for three weeks, along with most other local public and private schools. Most working parents were still required to go to work, but their kids were stuck at home. What did they do? Most of them scrounged childcare, called relatives, and made it work, but many of them missed work because they did not have childcare. Businesses lost money, and employees lost wages.

For a small group of employees, however, their employer had planned well in advance of Hurricane Harvey and created an emergency backup program, with contracted childcare providers to provide emergency care in the scenario that primary care was disrupted (e.g., school closures). These employers invested in reducing absenteeism, and saw a huge return on that investment when their employees were able to return to work. Similarly, the employees felt valued because their employer had invested in this very relevant work/life benefit. What is particularly interesting is that the cost of this program is barely on the radar for most of these employer HR budgets, as these programs are very inexpensive, even when you do not consider the ROI of reduced absenteeism. Less than 10% of affected Houston employees were protected by an emergency backup care program.

Two of my companies – College Nannies, Sitters & Tutors of Copperfield and Mom’s Best Friend – were blessed to be called upon by hospitals, doctors offices, financial services institutions, professional sports teams, high tech firms, oil and gas companies and numerous other Houston employers to deliver care in Houston during and after the storm. We provided thousands of hours of emergency backup childcare in the homes of working families all over Houston, and we also provided onsite childcare for many of the major hospitals across Houston. It was extremely gratifying to be able to really make a difference in the disaster. I love it when a company makes an investment that pays off in a huge way for the company as well as working families. Sometimes the best laid plans … work! For more information on backup childcare see

Leave a Comment