FORT COLLINS, Colo. -- Staffing shortages and closures are making it much more difficult for young parents in fast-growing Larimer County to find child care.
Jennifer Wright, the owner of Sunshine Kids Academy, said she receives inquiries from parents every week and has to tell them that she won’t have any openings until 2018.
“A lot of moms are really sad,” she said. “You can hear it in their voices. They want to cry. It’s heartbreaking because I want to fill that need but I’m not able to.”
“There are so many parents who need child care and don’t know what they’re going to do,” said Heather Griffith, owner of the Young Peoples Learning Center. “They’ve got a job. They start tomorrow and there’s nowhere for them to go. The best I can tell them is, ‘Maybe you can call me in January. I might be able to work something out.’”
Samantha Coontz, said it's the same at Sunshine House at CSU.
"Parents seem to feel a little defeated because we don't have room for their infants and they need space now," she said.
Bev Thurber, executive director of the Early Childhood Council of Larimer County said there are 300 child care providers in Larimer County. She said 200 of them are child care homes.
When asked how big the demand is, she said, “We estimate that 30 percent of infants and toddlers who need care would have access to licensed child care.”
She said for preschoolers, the situation is a little less acute.
Estimated Need vs. Licensed Capacity 0 – 2 years 2 – 6 years
· Number of children needing care 4,456 9,298
· Licensed capacity 1,117 6,856
When asked why there’s a shortage, Thurber replied, “It’s a complex issue.”
She said several providers went out of business during the recession, when many parents couldn’t afford to pay for child care, and they never re-opened.
“It’s an undervalued and underpaid field,” she added, “but it’s very rewarding.”
“It’s really difficult to find affordable daycare,” said Charety Aristoff, a mother of two, with another on the way. “It’s astronomical.”
Aristoff said the search can be very time consuming.
“I can’t even put it in words,” she said. “Sometimes you’ll find a good child care provider and then they’ll just kind of drop off the face of the world, or they won’t show up.”
This situation is so bad that the Early Childhood Council has launched a campaign, to try to find and help train new child care providers.
Those who are interested can check out the Council’s website: http://www.ecclc.org/
“We will walk them through what it takes to become licensed,” Thurber said. “We actually have some financial support to help pay for some of the classes they may need. We will hold your hand and walk you through the process.”
Linda Maes knows how rewarding the job can be. She’s a mom and a child care provider.
Maes said she got into the field, “because people need good providers that they can trust and who will care for their children as their own.”
Parents who are desperate to find quality child care say they hope the campaign is a success.