Staff shortages hurt parents’ chances of signing kids up for child care

Parents are ready to go back to work, but many are still searching for child care. However, more places are turning business away.

Pre-pandemic parents had a choice. Now, they are hoping their child’s name will come up on a waitlist.

Child care centers we spoke to do not want to turn families away, but like many other businesses, they can’t hire enough staff. That’s why they can’t take in more kids.

“Right now, my center is full for the upcoming school year,” said Beth Wallace, the director of Zion Lutheran Early Childhood Center in south Fort Myers. “And I’m trying to open up another classroom. It’s just trying to find the staff.”

We asked Wallace why some of her staff members told her they weren’t coming back.

“I think basically COVID had a fear in a lot of people, and that’s pretty much what it was,” Wallace said. “They had children, so they weren’t sending their kids back to public school, so they had to stay at home.”

The shortage hurts the chances for parents to get their kids signed up at any given child care center.

“Having to turn away families is heartbreaking,” Wallace said.

There are a number of reasons why different businesses can’t find enough staff members to meet demands. Some are trying to up the competition by increasing pay and offering singing bonuses.

One more staff member could help 10 families urgently searching for child care.

“I think that child care workers, especially in our community, have worked really hard through all of this,” Wallace said. “I think … they’re overlooked as heroes. I think that my staff has been amazing through all of this.”

Reporter:Morgan Rynor
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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