QUINCY (WGEM) – If you’ve searched for local child care and come up short, you are not alone.
It’s something economic development leaders said they want to tackle as 2023 turns into 2024.
Administrators at Quincy’s 10th Street Children’s Academy said they usually have the capacity to take up to 150 children, but right now they can only care for 100 because of the state’s staff to child ratio policies.
Child Care Director Alison Berhorst said the demand for infant and toddler care is the highest as those demands make up most of their waiting list, which is at almost 200 kids. She said currently they have 25 staff members. She said when they attempt to recruit staff, they often face challenges from college students who have concerns about entering the childcare field.
“Looking at the medium wage for early childhood teachers, it’s substantially less than other careers that may have the same level of education so definitely pay is an important one,” Alison Berhorst said
She said their starting pay is $15 an hour while other places pay minimum wage. Berhorst said benefits are another challenge. Limited funds mean they can’t provide certain things like health care, but they can offer PTO, sick days, and retirement benefits to help their workers.
Berhorst said one way they’ve managed to help with staffing is by partnering with local colleges like John Wood Community College to provide students with internship opportunities at their facility. She said it not only gives them classroom experience, but also has helped recruit future workers
Great River Economic Development Foundation Kyle Moore said the lack of staff impacts just how many children facilities are able to take care of, and it has effects on the workforce and economy. He said for parents, a lack of childcare slots means they have to decide who works and who stays at home. He said for employers, it hinders their ability to recruit people. State regulations require a certain staff to child ratio, and when facilities are short staffed, it means less children at their facility.
He said they continue to discuss strategies with facilities and employers to help fix the childcare shortage.
“We really want to work to get more people into childcare and to get them to understand that it’s a wonderful life fulfilling career,” Moore said. “One of the things that we want to do is work with our partners across our institutions of learning to reduce the cost to obtain a career in education and childcare.”
He said they also want to focus on staffing and supporting existing facilities locally. He said building new centers would only take away workers from current struggling centers.
He said support can take the form of grants or partnerships, and working with existing facilities to help them navigate red tape and other regulations.
Moore said a common problem childcare facilities face is how long background checks on people take. He said when facilities hire someone, the background check can take one to two months, and by the time it gets back, the person might have found another job.
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