KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A research-based organization is trying to help women stay in the workforce while the childcare crisis makes it harder.

The Family Conservancy says we’re in a childcare crisis across the Kansas City region. A group called United WE says it’s making progress in Kansas and Missouri, but there’s still a lot of work left to do.

President and CEO of United WE Wendy Doyle said they work to advance all women’s economic and civic leadership and use search to identify barriers and create change.

Over the last two years, they’ve held town halls in Kansas and Missouri, one of the top issues discussed — childcare.

“So, United WE has really leaned into being a champion of childcare,” Doyle said.

The report shows Kansas has added 6,848 childcare slots.

“For an infant in the Kansas City metro area, it can cost up to $20,000 a year for infant care,” President and CEO of Family Conservancy Paula Neth said.

She said they support childcare centers across nine metro counties.

Neth says two issues are limiting parents’ ability to get childcare — availability and cost. You could be paying $32,000 a year to have an infant and a 3-year-old in childcare.

“That only tells part of the story capacity also have childcare centers that are open,” Neth said, “but aren’t able to serve at their license capacity because they don’t have teachers.”

She said right now, our area only has about half of the childcare centers needed to serve all the children with both parents in the workforce.

“In this day and age, in this economy both parents need to be in the workforce,” Neth said. “So, what happens is a lot of times it’s the mother or the women this responsibility falls to and so they have to leave the workforce.”

Doyle said they’re working on that, too. Kansas City, Missouri expanded its paid family leave policy for birth or adoption of a child, the first of its kind in the country for city employees.

Doyle said Jackson Co. now has a 12-week paid family leave policy.

“It is a game changer,” Doyle said, “but also, statistics show that it improves the bottom
line for businesses and corporations if they have a paid family leave in place.”

Doyle encourages other corporations to follow suit, especially, as federal funding supporting the childcare industry will soon be ending.

Doyle said they have new research coming out next year that looking into more easily and safely licensing childcare centers at the state, county and city levels.