Finding solutions to our emergency
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) — The extra funding helps, but child care experts say it doesn’t solve the problem. Centers keep closing. More needs to be done to solve our child care crisis. Experts are studying what works in other states.
KY3 News is working with the Springfield Daily Citizen to address the lack of child care in the Ozarks. CLICK HERE for more coverage.
It wasn’t what she had planned, but Becky Frakes says it’s okay.
“I had a very fine long career of forty-seven years. I always said that I was going to retire at noon on the day of my funeral, but when these children arrived it changed my perspective and I started counting the days until I could take my retirement,” Frakes said.
She watches over her grandchildren, Archer and Alice, all day a week. She does this so that her daughter and son-in-law can work. Plus, they save a lot of money.
“We were checking around, $900 a month for one,” she said.
Many grandparents, like Frakes, retire early, so they watch their grandchildren. It is estimated that in Greene County alone, more than four thousand children require child care.
“Right now they’re closing faster than we can reopen them,” said Dana Carroll of the Community Partnership of the Ozarks.
A dozen Springfield-area centers have closed since the pandemic. Keeping the doors open is a test. As On Your Side has been explaining all week, it’s not a for-profit business. Companies can only make so much money because they have to comply with the law. There are ratios of staff and children. Keeping finances out of the red is a challenge.
“The smallest thing will tip the balance, won’t it? An increase in the minimum wage increases the budget. You have to add more to tuition,” Carroll said.
The average worker earns eleven hours.
“Staff have just left to look for better paid jobs. It’s the reality of the market we work in,” said Sally Payne of Springfield Workforce Development.
Missouri child care providers have about half a billion dollars ($444,140,749) in relief funds through the American Rescue Plan Act. A good part of this sum is devoted to staff retention (183,750,000). There is also funding for operations and staff training.
Child care experts we spoke to say the extra funding is helpful, but it doesn’t completely solve the child care crisis. Community leaders here have been doing research for new ideas. There’s something called a pod model in Minnesota. A single entity takes care of all the administrative formalities for several daycares.
“This pod model would allow vendors in but one person would oversee the business aspects and do it for them,” Payne said.
Another idea is that the centers will save money with volunteers who pass background checks, but there is a problem.
“Some of the licensing laws are a barrier to opening a facility. Using volunteers won’t count against your ratio. Can we consider volunteers, retirees as educators, but it won’t count because ‘they’re not allowed to count in teacher-to-child ratios,’ Payne said.
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