Tucson pharmacist Jessie Zugerman has what many parents would consider an ideal child-care solution - a center sponsored by her employer that she can easily visit during breaks.
Zugerman, 33, works at Carondelet St. Mary's Hospital, which has its own child-care center called Casita Maria.
Casita Maria, across the street from the hospital, is 20 years old and was modeled on the 25-year-old Casita José at Carondelet St. Joseph's Hospital. Both are available at a discount rate to employees of the Carondelet Health Network.
The staff-to-child ratio never tops 1 to 8, turnover among workers is low and there's usually a waiting list, says Gloria Gutierrez, who manages both locations.
For Zugerman, employer-sponsored child care gives her peace of mind. That's a common sentiment - several studies say workers are more productive, and more likely to stick around, when they know their children are safe and close by.
An annual survey by the Pima Association of Governments found a dip in employers helping with day care - fewer than 4 percent of 289 employers in 2012. That holds nationwide - about 7 percent of U.S. employers provide child care on-site or nearby, the Families and Work Institute says.
Only a handful of Tucson employers provide child care. The University of Arizona gives benefits-eligible workers vouchers to be used for children birth through 12 years, says Caryn Jung, the UA's senior coordinator for Life and Work Connections. The UA also has a sick-child and emergency backup care program.
U.S. employers can deduct 25 percent of their costs for on-site child care, and there is a push to raise that to 35 percent.
U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York is working with fellow Democrat Barbara Boxer of California on legislation to give employers better tax breaks for providing on-site child care or helping workers find affordable child care. Employers can deduct 10 percent of the costs of providing child-care resources and referrals; Gillibrand proposes raising that to 20 percent up to $225,000.
Jessie Zugerman and her husband initially thought they'd use a nanny for their children. They had one until their eldest daughter, Addison, was 10 months old. But the expense was high and Zugerman worried during the day about how Addison was doing.
Addison, 5, recently graduated from the center and will attend kindergarten this year. One-year-old Alexa has been at Casita Maria since she was 12 weeks old, and Zugerman often eats lunch with her.
"The educators here really want to be here. The love is palpable," Zugerman says. "My whole family was in tears during Addison's graduation ceremony."