‘If it’s not a crisis yet, we are headed that way’: 350 York County kids waiting for child care

YORK, Neb. (KLKN) – Parents with young children are having a stressful time finding child care as the staffing shortage drags on.

“If it’s not a crisis yet, we are headed that way,” said Lisa Hurley, executive director of the York County Development Corporation.

She said over 350 kids are waiting to get into child care, an increase of more than 100 since 2020.

Child care facilities nationwide are seeing a spike in demand while also experiencing staffing shortages, causing some parents to make difficult decisions and forcing communities to come together to find a solution.

“We are looking at longer wait lists,” said Chelsea Putnam, director of Little Jewels, a day care in York. “We have an overwhelming number” of requests, especially for infant care.

“With the teacher shortage, I can’t bring in more kids because I don’t have enough staff,” she said.

Families with younger children trying to move to York are faced with obstacles.

“Our biggest issues in York County are housing and child care,” said Chandra Berlin, coach Communities for Kids. “Working with the workforce, if they can’t find child care, and if they can’t find housing, they can’t come work here.”

The community is now coming together to think of ways to combat this problem, which is now hurting the economy.

“Now we are bringing businesses to the table, and we are saying, ‘If it is an issue for you, how can we help each other to make that not an issue anymore?'” Berlin said.

They are also talking about how they can help raise the pay for those working in child care.

“Nationally, 75% of early childhood employees are at the poverty line,” Hurley said. “That’s terrifying because that contributes to the turnover.”

The community is trying to get businesses to get creative about child care options for their employees.

“Our hospital has child care, which is part of their program, and that is very successful for them,” Berlin said. “No one else has really brought that to the table. We just keep talking to the businesses to see how we can help them help their families.”

If people are not going to work because they don’t have child care, it prolongs worker shortages, causing a vicious cycle.

Inflation has also made it harder for parents to stay at home with their kids, as many families need two incomes.

“As a parent, I know the need for day care is there. I mean, I know it has to be,” Putnam said. “It’s not like it was in the 1950s. You can’t have the mom stay home with the kids and the dad goes to work and is able to pay all the bills. We have to be two-income households.”

If you’re interested in working in child care and want to help with this crisis, especially in York, click here to apply.

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