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Day cares fill up, face staffing struggles

GREENWOOD, Ind. (WISH) — As people head back to work in person, day cares for children in Indiana are filling up. However, some say they can’t find enough staff and partly blame current unemployment benefits that will soon change in Indiana.

Erin Sinders with daughter, Hannah

In the meantime, some parents said they can’t work because of the lack of child care. Day cares admit the price of child care and pay of these employees is also part of the problem.

“It is that vicious cycle. I need care but I also need a job. But, I can’t afford care. I don’t have a job, but I can’t go get a job unless somebody watches my kid,” said Erin Sinders, the director of Adventures Childcare and Learning Center in Greenwood.

Sinders is a mom herself and said parents are currently having a hard time finding care for their kids.

“We are licensed for 161 and we are full. I mean we have waitlists out for over a year,” said Sinders.

That waitlist includes the infant room, even though recent data released by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics shows the birth rate during the pandemic dropped. 

Now as more people go back to work in person, finding staff is the latest issue.

“We kind of have to do an enrollment freeze because we can’t find staff. We can’t find quality staff,” said Sinders.

(Provided Photo)

Sinders points to current unemployment benefits.

“I can’t tell you how many applications we get… But I can tell you we have hardly any interviews because they apply and they don’t ever show,” said Sinders. 

This could change on June 1 when Gov. Eric Holcomb’s new executive order starts. Meaning people receiving unemployment benefits will have to show proof that they are actively looking for work and must submit a weekly report on their job-seeking efforts. Plus, the governor said starting on June 19 Indiana ends its expanded federal unemployment payments program

However, day cares said the issue runs deeper than just unemployment benefits.

“Pay. This is not an industry where you are going to get paid well. It just isn’t. And that is why we really look for that passion,” said Sinders.

According to the most recent data from the early childhood workforce index, the median wage for child care workers in Indiana is $10.31 an hour. Meaning day care workers compete with retail or fast food jobs in terms of pay, depending on their education.

However, child care is expensive and can cost parents more than their mortgage. If day cares raise the price for increased wages, parents likely can’t to afford it. Leaving our most priceless possessions, in this vicious cycle.

“I would like to say there is hope, but part of that is if you have children and you need care and you can’t find care, how are you supposed to go apply for jobs or interview for jobs?” asked Sinders. “We can’t bankrupt our parents. It’s this vicious cycle of like, I need care, but I need staff to provide you care.”

While federal money has helped these day cares stay afloat during the pandemic, they said child care facilities need government help and funding, even after this health crisis.

Parents looking for child care options in Indiana can utilize state resources here.