Overview: They lost two daycare centers during the pandemic —
addressing the post-pandemic child care staffing crisis
Chris Westerfield, preschool coordinator, said the main reason for "losing at least 2 day care centers during the pandemic" was due to staffing issues — the schools simply couldn’t keep enough staff to maintain their services.
In Daviess County — Westerfield's current residence — there are 10,000 children below the age of six, and only 28 licensed child care centers for those children.
That's one daycare center for every 357 children.
But the four-county region of Daviess, Henderson, Ohio, and Hancock aren't the only
counties with a disproportionate child-to-staff ratio.
WHY THE STAFFING CRISIS? DAYCARE CENTER CHALLENGES:
Child care providers all over the country, regardless of their state or setting, are
experiencing the strain of being understaffed. The numbers presented above are simply the reality of the challenging staffing crisis that many daycare centers around the nation have been experiencing.
The child care services industry is still down 126,700 workers — more than a 10 percent decline from pre-pandemic levels according to Labor Department data. Much of this decline in staff could be attributed to the following:
● Low pay; no benefits
● Challenging applicant pool (under-qualified; high salary expectation)
● Competitive retail and service jobs; seasonal work
The Low Pay/No Benefits Issue:
According to the Center for American Progress, "deserts" are facilities where no, or few, child care provider options are able to be offered to at least 50 children under the age of five — as there are often more than three-times as many children as there are licensed child care slots.
>> CONTINUE READING: FINDING SOLUTIONS TO LOCAL CHILD CARE PROBLEMS
The problem is that daycare workers typically make about $12 an hour for a demanding job year-round.
"Centers often aren’t able to pay a lot of money for staff," Westerfield, quoted at the
outset of this article, says. And beyond higher pay, potential candidates are also seeking a position with better benefits in early education — including paid time off, vacation days, mental health benefits, and medical benefits. "[Centers] aren’t able to offer benefits," Westerfield continues.
A Less-than-ideal Applicant Pool:
Teddy Bear Day Care and Preschool director Jessica Duckett tells CNBC that she is as many as "six employees short and has only 60 of a possible 109 children enrolled,
simply because she’s not staffed to care for them."
Meanwhile, in Weymouth, Massachusetts, South Shore Stars’ early-childhood program received zero applicants for the 2021 summer for its preschool teacher positions.
Besides applicants never showing up for interviews and under-qualified candidates, Duckett includes individuals seeking wages beyond her affordability range as part of her staffing challenge. With the latter, the "$13 to $14, free childcare [sic] for staff, and benefits at her two locations" is what she can offer staff members if she wants to keep costs down for parents.
You can read more about Duckett's experience in the child care industry in her CNBC interview here.
In essence, the applicant pool just isn’t there.
"It’s a Lot Easier to Cook Nuggets":
Chick-fil-A pays $15-16 an hour in Sussex County while many teachers at Sussex Preschools in Delaware make only $10.
"Educators could waitress for the summer and make their yearly salary," explains Toni Dickerson, administrator at Sussex Preschools in Delaware.
In an article published by Business Insider, one lead toddler teacher said she has also seen workers at her preschool leave for positions in elementary and secondary education because of the better pay, incentives, and benefits at local school districts.
With the increased lack of staff, Dickerson says that parents are getting desperate. Those who are unable to receive any sort of high-quality child care alternative have resorted to "dropping their kids at unlicensed facilities [...] cheerleading gyms and martial arts centers."
So, what staffing solutions, if any, exist? And could child care facilities that are currently operating actually remain open and well-run while minimizing the number of closing facilities?
SOLUTIONS TO THE NATION'S STAFFING CRISIS:
There are potential solutions on the horizon, but they won’t happen without significant action. KPBS talks about one solution: The president's early education plan where all 3- and 4-year-olds and subsidies would have access to free preschool, ensuring that families pay no more than 7 percent of their income on child care.
>> CONTINUE READING: A SEARCH FOR SOLUTIONS TO THE CHILD CARE STAFFING CRISIS
However, while some solutions such as the early education plan could be effective, it also places daycare facilities at a disadvantage because they're waiting on another person's time.
We're all looking forward to receiving that comprehensive policy change that provides long-term, sustainable solutions that's needed to transform child care, but how long would we have to wait? Tomorrow? A few years?
CONCLUDING WITH A SOLUTION FOR NOW:
Another solution that daycare facilities can do now to combat the staffing crisis is to implement flexible child care. This under-utilized approach gives facilities the opportunity to offer child care hours that work around families' schedules, not through them.
Our last article about flexible child care explains the psychology behind offering less hours and more pay as a daycare center: most people simply don't want to spend money on something they can't use.
Since some major areas of concern are how parents can't afford child care, or there isn't enough staff to help manage the daycare center, flexible care solutions address affordability and staff.
The addition of robust staff scheduling features, capacity planning tools to ease day-to-day responsibilities for staff members, and more, customer satisfaction is dramatically increased since centers have an offering that stands out from the competition.
Centers will also be able to generate more revenue as it incurs lower costs to serve its families, thus boosting profits and essentially presenting opportunities of higher pay and better benefits so potential staff have more incentive to work at facilities.