by: Ally Peters
ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Many parents rely on child care to help take care of their children, but lately services could be hard to find.
The child care industry is in a crisis due to staffing shortages from the on-going pandemic. According to the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), 80% of child care centers are short staffed.
The impact has been felt across New York and locally.
“Statewide, employment and childcare is down about 10,000 workers to the pre-pandemic levels, which is about a 16% workforce reduction, which is really significant. That’s a big chunk of people and it’s a lot larger than the overall decline in jobs.”” said Pete Nabozny, the Director of Policy at The Children’s Agenda.
To deal with shortages, centers have been left having to make some difficult changes.
“A lot of places are shortening the day, they’re shifting their days or what it might look like, or even just closing down full rooms. So you might have 400-kid capacity and now you can handle 250,” said Jeff Pier, the CEO of Child Care Council Inc.
Pier says the council has seen more than 150 of their centers impacted by the shortage and families are being impacted.
“A lot of our families have decided to stay home or move their shifts differently as well, or maybe one parent will stay home and go back down to part time and the other parent go back to work,” Pier said.
So what’s causing this shortage? There could be a few things.
Nabozny said while being a child care provider is rewarding… it isn’t easy.
“You’re spending time with young children, watching them grow and develop and providing support to these children and their families…but it is demanding. Taking care of a number of small children every day can be pretty grueling,” he said.
The average starting pay for providers is also around $12 to $13.50 an hour.
“These childcare centers can only charge what parents can afford up to a certain point and so if they charge more money than they lose families, but they’re having a hard time affording to pay their employees the amount that they really deserve,” Nabozny said.
“It’s a real failure of our system overall to primarily rely on parents of young children to bear the entire cost of the care for those kids while they’re at work. A lot of other countries in Europe and elsewhere… there’s more government support for childcare programs, much like you’d have with the K 12 school system here.”
Pier said some workers have expressed they don’t want to get vaccinated, or don’t feel comfortable working with the coronavirus. But he also said he believes there is a lack of respect for the services child can providers offer for families.
“Our providers.. they are teachers, they are educators, they are caretakers. But a lot of times I think that society looks at those positions as not as important without childcare, we can’t take care of our kids, we can’t get the economy going. Again, we can’t get back to work,” Pier said.
“This is an incredibly important career. It’s something that we need to prioritize, that someone should be able to make a living as a childcare worker, as an educator of young children,” Nabozny said.
The federal government recently allocated millions of dollars in grant money to New York to help child care centers stay open during the pandemic. Pier said that money has been helpful locally.
“Just in Monroe County, it has brought in over $25 million dollars to date, just over the last two months. And in our region, which our region that we service is Livingston and Wayne County as well, and in both of those counties, approximately 2 million each. So you’re looking at about $29 million dollars has been allocated just for childcare providers in this three county region,” Pier said.
However, the money is only available for 6 month. Nabozny and Pier both hope the government continues to provide some kind of support for centers.
“It would be great if the state could find some way to continue a version of that stabilization program. So that province could offer slightly higher wages permanently or give people raises as opposed to like a retention bonus or a hiring bonus,” Nabozny said.
For those looking for child care, The Children’s Agenda and Child Care Council encourage people to call them.
Pier also said it’s helpful if families are thinking ahead, joining waitlists, and speaking to directors about the best care available for them.
To reach The Children’s Agenda, you can call (585) 256-2620. The Child Care Council can be reached at 585-654-4720.