NORTHWEST ARKANSAS, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) —The latest report from the Arkansas Women’s Commission said finding quality childcare is a key issue facing women in the workforce.

According to Child Care Aware of Northwest Arkansas, some families are struggling to afford the care, while others haven’t been able to find places with enough space or staff to provide care for their kids.

Its director, Michelle Wynn, said sometimes when working women can’t find care, they’re forced to choose between work and staying home with their kids. She’s now recommending that the best way to secure your kids’ spot with a childcare service is to add them to the list as soon as you’re pregnant.

“We want them to be successful to go to kindergarten, and we can tell the kids that have not had a successful program that they’re going to be behind. You see this from reading to social and emotional, just all these different skills that they really need to have before they get to kindergarten,” said Wynn.

Wynn said during the pandemic many childcare workers left the industry, and facilities haven’t caught up with their staffing needs as our area continues to grow. To help staff facilities and open up spots for more kids, Child Care Aware is partnering with Rogers Schools to push more young people toward working in early childcare.

“We’ve actually been working with our Rogers Chamber of Commerce, and we’ve also worked with our Rogers School District, talking to local students. We’re seeing that we need to start on that pipeline of students in our workforce at a younger age. So talking to middle school, junior, and high school students who are interested in child development and getting them in the early childhood field,” said Wynn.

Wynn also said she wants to see more businesses step in, by making sure families moving to the area for work will have options for childcare, and the funds to pay for it.

To help aid Fayetteville families, the city is launching a new childcare assistance program for low to moderate-income families who live, work or go to school in Fayetteville. The city’s Director of Community Resources, Yolanda Fields, said the city will pay for 12 months of child care for families who qualify.

To fund this effort, the Fayetteville city council approved 500,000 dollars in American Rescue Plan funds. Fields said it’s necessary relief for parents who are being kept out of the workforce because they can’t afford childcare.

“So it’s a huge need. Not only is it going to benefit those families so that they can either go back to work or just have space to breathe, but it’s also going to be bringing funding into our childcare providers to help them hopefully expand,” said Fields.

Fields said they’ll help families who apply until funds from the American Rescue Plan run out.

To apply for the Childcare Assistance Program, or if you have questions, you can email community_resources@fayetteville-ar.gov or call community resources at 479-575-8260.

If you don’t qualify for the Fayetteville assistance program, Child Care Aware is helping families apply for other childcare vouchers and scholarships as well.