Child Care Crisis: Finding solutions to cut costs
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - An estimated 11,000 kids in the Ozarks need child care but have nowhere to go.
Since the pandemic, centers are closing at an alarming rate. This forces parents to quit their jobs or make other arrangements.
It’s not uncommon for parents to pay hundreds of dollars each week for child care.
“We have paid up to $220 a week per child,” said Kelsie Young Smith.
She could not keep paying that.
“It would have been paying to work because I didn’t make as much as the three daycare payments cost at the time,” she said.
There are child care subsidies for low-income families. Child care experts say maybe we should expand that program.
“It’s kind of like, I don’t pay the full cost of health care. I don’t pay that. I pay an insurance premium and a copay. We can’t afford to pass the true cost of care to families, but childcare can’t compete with restaurants and the retail industry,” said Dana Carroll with Community Partnership of the Ozarks.
That’s another problem. Centers operate like standalone businesses but have profit limitations because, by law, you can only have so many kids per worker. Workers get paid so little, around $11 an hour.
“There’s just going to have to be legislative changes. We are going to have to do something about subsidies that would allow raising the wages,” said Sally Payne with the Springfield Workforce Development.
There’s money for staff retention in Missouri through the American Rescue Plan Act.
$500 for up to six months of employment. $1,000 for more than six months. Child experts say it’s a start.
“You can’t just rely on one funding source. One grant or revolving loan fund to fix it all. It’s not that simple,” said Robin Phillips with Child Care Aware.
As On Your Side discovered, there are good partnerships with providers. Messiah Lighthouse Child and Family Development Center do not pay for rent or utilities. The church covers it. It’s a way to keep the doors open and lower the cost of care.
Thousands of parents have the option to take their kids to work because there’s a child care center a few feet from their desks. Employers that offer this service typically run on a deficit. It’s an expensive investment. However, it improves worker retention.
Perhaps a few of these spots could open to the public.
“That is a heavy cost and burden. Not all employers have the ability or budget to do that. That’s maybe where we can connect them to providers to at least subsidize slots. Then they don’t have that cost of building infrastructure on site,” said Payne.
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