FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — As the world shifts away from remote working, finding a place where parents feel confident leaving their kids is a high priority, but they are having trouble finding child care centers with spaces available and affordable prices.
Michelle Wynn is a parent struggling to find a place to take her boys, and the co-director for Child Care Aware of Northwest Arkansas. It’s a nonprofit that connects parents with child care facilities and she said they’re getting multiple calls a day.
“You’re stressed because you have to go back to work, you’re crying, you’re upset, and sometimes we are the last call because they called everywhere else,” said Wynn.
Wynn said there are long waitlists for most child care centers. She tells parents to start looking or a place to care for their kids as soon as they are pregnant. Also, after school programs for next fall are already filling up, so parents should be looking far in advance at registering.
One reason parents can’t get their kids into preschool is there aren’t enough childcare workers in the industry.
Robin Slaton is the owner of Kiddie Campus Childcare Center and said she has faced many issues hiring and keeping staff.
“As a business owner, I always have to project what’s coming down the road, and so it’s really scary thoughts,” said Slaton.
Wynn said besides staffing, parents just can’t afford it, which forces parents to make the decision between going to work and staying home with their little ones.
Another thing Slayton said is on the horizon for the child care industry that’ll make it more difficult on parents’ pocketbooks is the money for child care assistance programs and funding vouchers for essential workers are coming to an end.
Wynn said when the money dries up, more parents will be staying home with their kids or looking for other ways to get child care like family members and neighbors.
The National Institute for Early Education Research said preschool enrollment has declined for the first time in two decades by about 20 percent. You can read more about their study here.