Parents face higher tuition, longer waitlists for child care due to staffing issues

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.– Child care workers are quitting their jobs at an alarming rate for higher paying positions—which is causing major challenges for parents returning to in-person work.

Child care programs are battling staffing shortages and low retention rates, leading to fewer spots and longer waitlists.

“If we can’t watch your children, you can’t do your job,” Sherri Pipkin, Director of Noah’s Ark Childcare and Preschool.

Noah’s Ark Childcare and Preschool is one of many Hoosier childcare centers struggling to find and keep workers.

“Childcare is not normally an industry that pays a lot so it’s very difficult to be able to keep employees,” Pipkin said.

They’ve raised the minimum wage from $11 to $15 to compete with other businesses which has led to higher tuition prices for parents.

“We’ve had to raise rates for parents to hold on to employees,” Pipkin said.

They’re not the only Hoosier childcare center facing these challenges.

“Especially as of last spring, we’ve seen an increase in the number of children,” said Kris Cavolick, Executive Director at St. Mary’s Early Childhood Center.

The childcare center increased the salaries of teachers and hourly workers to compete with other higher paying industries and keep up with the surge—which Cavolick says is due to parents returning to in-person work.

“With most schools going back full-time, siblings are also in need of childcare as parents return to work,” Cavolick said.

“We’re definitely seeing this trend statewide,” said Maureen Weber, President and CEO of Early Learning Indiana. “I’ve heard from every corner of Indiana expressing the same concern.”

Weber says recent numbers gathered by the state report there are 3,400 childcare worker positions open right now.

For parents returning to work, experts say they need to start looking for childcare early.

“As an employer, we have to be flexible and other employers are going to have to do that as well as we work through uses and stabilize the market a little bit,” Weber said.

There are many resources for parents.

ChildCareFinder.IN.gov is where families can search for child care in their area – or even on their way to work or school.

OnMyWayPreK.org can help lower income families with 4-year-old children get them into a high-quality pre-K to prepare them for Kindergarten and school success.

EarlyEdConnect.FSSA.IN.gov is where families can apply for all low-income programs.

Families.BuildLearnGrow.org is where families of essential workers – at any income level – can sign up for assistance paying for child care and before and after-school programs.

And if families still have questions or need assistance, call 1-800-299-1627.

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