(NewsNation) — The nation’s child care community is shrinking and parents are becoming frustrated that they cannot find care for their children. Many parents are left to wait for months until a spot opens up at child care centers.
The latest Bureau of Labor Statistics report reflects that there are 100,000 fewer child care workers than there were prior to the pandemic, leaving half of the country living in what’s called “child care deserts.”
From urban neighborhoods to rural communities, parents are facing the same day care dilemma.
“But as we see more closures, it’s going to affect more and more families and it’s going to be a crisis for the families and for the employers with parents losing daycare,” Gregory Bender with the Day Care Council of New York said.
In New York City, there are “child care deserts” across the five boroughs. In some cases, child care providers in the city have decided to close down abruptly, and the parents were the last ones to find out.
“It messes up the children. It messes up the parents. It messes up the staff. It takes a toll on everyone,” parent Melissa McDonald said.
Low pay and poor benefits are making it harder for child care workers to stay when they know they can find better opportunities.
“They can go elsewhere. They can get higher hourly wages at a Target or Amazon or somewhere like that. But it’s not necessarily where their passion is because their passion is with children,” policy director of NC Child Tiffany Gladney said.
According to the Economic Policy Institute, the average child care worker in the U.S. makes about $13.51 an hour. That’s roughly $30,000 a year, which is less than half of what the average U.S. worker makes at almost $28 an hour.
In 2020, the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment published a report saying that 98% of occupations pay more than the child care industry.
“So, how do they find that happy medium there to still support their family, support their health, support their lifestyles but also feed their passion?” Gladney questioned.
In Washington state, Kingston’s Central Valley Child Care Center closed its doors in September, telling parents that staffing issues were one of the reasons the center closed for good. The center posted photos on its Facebook page offering up its supplies such as books, organizers and baskets for free.
Some experts suggested that the only way to halt the exodus of day care workers is to raise their wages.
The Economic Policy Institute says that raising the minimum wage to at least $21 per hour would help retain the workforce and give workers the financial security they need.
But until that happens, the nation will have a need for helping hands to nurture and care for the children.
Now, states across the country are trying to fix the crisis. Earlier this year, a bipartisan bill was signed by the governor in New Hampshire to direct state health and human services to develop a plan for sustainable child care opportunities for working families and businesses in the state.