Child Care Crisis: Rural areas hit hard with lack of options
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Missouri has lost 12% of its child care business since the start of the pandemic, according to Child Care Aware. Cities feel the impact but it hits rural areas hard too.
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 means fewer child care options for areas where there were not a lot of options to start. Some parents are making hard decisions that impact finances and children’s education.
Sarah Bracht loves being a mom, and he has three children under the age of five. She has secured child care in Mt. Vernon, a place considered a child care desert.
“All three of them go,” Bracht says. “It’s very very expensive. So we have quite the plan.”
The plan is the only way she’s able to work and afford to live. She does the program for half days and has help from her parents and in-laws to fill in the gaps.
If she wanted a less expensive option, she’d be out of luck. There are not many options at all, so they are holding the half-day spot they have.
“We know of three places here, and some are two and up, so you can’t even take your babies there,” Bracht says.
And 1/3 of Missourians live in what is considered a child care desert. To be considered a desert, you have to live in a county with 50 or more children under the age of 5 that contains NO child care or so few that there are three times as many children as the number of spots available.
“A lot of times, family are having to rely on options that I call underground care,” Robin Phillips from Child Care Aware Missouri says. “Ones that are off the radar because parents don’t have any other options. Or they can’t afford it. Their hearts feel like they are doing the best thing, and they are in that moment.”
Parents are sometimes forced to make a decision they wouldn’t usually make be able to work.
“You know, really all children, no matter what zip code they live in, deserve good quality care families can afford, and that’s not reality,” Phillips says. “That’s not the reality in our state or in our country.”
Phillips says if you are living in a desert, being creative is the best way to find care. Reaching out to your school district or connecting with churches that might have insight.
Dana Carroll from Community Partnership of the Ozarks adds word of mouth can be a good tool in more rural areas.
“Definitely connect with providers in and around the area, and sometimes they will know of other providers because they’re a pretty good network among each other,” Carroll says.
She also says the new Child Care Connect database will be a great resource for parents launching in August. You can find more information on the database and get signed up here.
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