Childcare workers are hard to find

Updated: Jun. 11, 2021 at 11:59 AM CDT
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(CNN) - With the pandemic easing up and more businesses opening, workers are starting to return to offices, but a shortage in childcare workers is having a domino effect on parents who can’t leave their kids home alone.

Mornings at Wonderspring Early Education in West Philadelphia start with circle time.

The infants are fed and sung to, and the toddlers play with blocks and toys, all under the watchful eye of these childcare workers for eight hours a day.

“They are teachers. They are not just daycare workers. We’re not caring for days; we’re caring for children,” said Zakiyyah Boone of Wonderspring Early Education.

Childcare workers - 98% women and almost half people of color - are paid poverty level wages to watch, care for and teach America’s youngest, earning a median salary of about $24,000.

There is a shortage of people for this critical work.

“Finding teachers today is quite a challenge,” Booe said.

Some classrooms at one of Wonderspring’s centers sit empty because 30% of their positions are open.

That’s just above national numbers, showing a nearly 20% loss in the child care workforce since the pandemic.

“I can’t just sell more toilet paper in order to earn more money, to pay my teachers more. I also can’t just randomly charge the families 25, 30, 40% more in tuition. I have to be able to have funding to do that,” Boone said.

The American Rescue Plan allotted $39 billion for childcare centers, but more money is needed.

Both the American Families Plan and infrastructure bill would provide billions to these centers.

“Public funding is the answer to ensure affordable or free access to early care and education for families and to ensure livable wages for the early care and education workforce,” said Lea Austin of theCenter for the Study of Childcare Employment at UC Berkeley.

That would provide livable wages and less of a cost burden of cost on parents.

“I was quoted around $4,300, which is actually not the same price as my rent, but more than my rent,” sad Tomia Mitchell-Haas, a mom in search of a daycare.

The cost is high, if parents can even find a child care center with openings.

Wonderspring has a wait list of 100 families.

In Los Angeles, Mitchell-Haas has spent months looking for child care for her 2-year-old Ari, and 4 year-old Sai.

“I’m on a couple of wait lists. I felt like no one thought of what this is doing to a single mom who still has to work as well,” she said.

Mitchell-Haas is a teacher herself, working from home throughout the pandemic.

She takes turns watching her toddlers with her 13-year-old daughter Aiyana until spots open up.

“You want them to be learning. You want them to be happy. You want them to be safe. Why should that be something that’s so difficult to attain? It shouldn’t,” Mitchell-Haas said.

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