Childcare crisis felt in Kansas City area with daycare closures, waitlists

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Daycares across the nation and right here in the Kansas City area are struggling, and parents are struggling right along with them.

For some, daycare is too expensive. For operators, they’re having trouble finding staff and keeping their doors open.

Even if you have the money to put your children in daycare, some parents may not be able to find one with openings.

For Katie Souder, it’s been stressful. Her 5-month-old daughter, Harper, doesn’t have a care in the world, but even before she was born, Souder has been working to make sure she’s taken care of.

“I quickly realized that we should have probably started right when I found out I was pregnant,” Souder said.

She said some waitlists were at least a year long while she was searching and started to stress, but was able to find a good daycare that would take her daughter.

“The reason they had an infant opening was because they were relatively new,” Souder said.

They loved the daycare, but after a few months she found herself searching for a new one.

“They sent out a note to all the parents — unfortunately the daycare would have to close due to staffing shortages. They just weren’t going to be able to pull through the holidays,” Souder said.

According to a survey by the National Association for the Education of Young Children, 4 out of 5 daycares in the nation are understaffed. Nearly 80% of those surveyed said low wages are keeping them from hiring employees. It’s an issue compounded by a pandemic-impacted economy.

Cindy Lenhoff, director for the National Childcare Association, said daycares nationwide are experiencing a staffing crisis.

“We are not able to attract or keep qualified staff in our licensed childcare centers,” Lenhoff said. “A lot of people started working at home or they were laid off. And we also had situations, and this was in a lot of states, where we were mandated to only serve half of our children.”

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 705,000 moms gave up on working outside the home since the beginning of the pandemic, and some may not return.

For working moms, like Harper’s, it’s a balancing act.

“If I had to take let’s say six months to a year off and put those things on hold, that would certainly put me behind. I would wonder what future employers might think with that gap on my resume,” Souder said.

Luckily, Souder was able to find a daycare she trusts after weeks of searching for a new one. She said many daycares she called had long waitlists. One even had a 2-year waitlist for their toddler room. In essence, for certain daycares you would need to sign up a child that doesn’t exist yet.

If you are a parent dealing with similar issues in the Kansas City metro, please reach out to Sherae Honeycutt to help dig deeper into this complex issue. You can email her at sherae.honeycutt@fox4kc.com.

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