Child Care Crisis: Finding solutions for our emergency

Published: Jul. 28, 2022 at 5:41 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 28, 2022 at 5:45 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - The extra funding helps, but child care experts say it doesn’t solve the problem. Centers keep closing. More must be done to solve our child care crisis. Experts are researching what’s working in other states.

Child Care Crisis/KY3
Child Care Crisis/KY3(ky3)

KY3 News is working with the Springfield Daily Citizen to address the lack of child care in the Ozarks. CLICK HERE for more coverage.

It wasn’t what she planned, but Becky Frakes says that’s okay.

“I had a very nice long career of forty-seven years. I always said I was going to retire at noon the day of my funeral, but when these kids came along, that changed my perspective, and I started counting down the days until I could retire,” said Frakes.

She watches her grandkids, Archer and Alice, all day a week. She does this so her daughter and son-in-law can work. Plus, they save a lot of money.

“We were checking around, $900 a month for one,” she said.

Many grandparents, like Frakes, retire early, so they watch their grandkids. It’s estimated in Greene County alone, more than four thousand kids need child care.

“Right now, they’re closing faster than we can reopen them,” said Dana Carroll with Community Partnership of the Ozarks.

About a dozen centers in the Springfield area have closed since the pandemic. Keeping doors open is a hardship. As On Your Side explained all week, it’s not a profit-driven business. Companies can only make so much money because they must comply with the law. There are staff and children ratios. Keeping finances out of the red is a challenge.

“The slightest thing will tip that, right? A minimum wage increase increases the budget. You have to add more to the tuition cost,” said Carroll.

The average worker makes eleven an hour.

“Staff have just left to go for better-paying jobs. That’s the reality of the market we are working in,” said Sally Payne with Springfield Workforce Development.

Missouri child care providers have about half a billion dollars ($444,140,749) in relief funds through the American Rescue Plan Act. A good chunk of that goes toward staff retention (183,750,000). There’s also funding for operations and training staff.

Child care experts we talk to say the additional funding helps, but it doesn’t completely solve the child care crisis. Community leaders here have done research to find new ideas. There’s something called a pod model in Minnesota. One entity does all the paperwork for several child care centers.

“This pod model would allow providers to come in but have one person oversee business aspects and do that for them,” said Payne.

Another idea, centers will save money with volunteers who pass background checks, but there’s a problem.

“Some of the licensing laws are a barrier to opening a facility. The usage of volunteers will not count toward your ratio. Can we look at volunteers, retirees to be educators, but it will not count because they’re not allowed to count towards the teacher, child ratios,” said Payne.

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