Daycares face more kids, less workers and higher price tags

MISHAWAKA, Ind. - As the pandemic is loosening up, more people are going back to work in person. But some parents are being forced to stay home due to high prices and long waitlists at local daycares.

Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of daycare options in our area. But parents tell ABC57 finding affordable child care is impossible leaving some to continue to work from home despite COVID lightening up.

“He has a social communication delay because he’s not around kids his own age," Paige Tuder, one parent said.

Because of the pandemic, Paige Tudor's 2-year-old son has been staying at home with limited interaction.

“It’s partly because of the pandemic, it’s partly because daycare is so expensive he stays home with us," she said.

So finding convenient child care is a top priority.

"There are 3 daycares near us," she said.

But finding affordable care... is a whole other ordeal.

"Each one of them wanted $250 a week," she said. "$1000 a month is outrageous it’s more than our rent.”

Popular daycares like Growing Kids and KinderCare often have long waitlists and high prices leaving some parents to seek alternative options.

"The only thing we can do is he’s a stay-at-home kid with a stay-at-home dad," she said.

Jillian Oakley at Acorn Academy in Mishawaka said it’s because the demand is so high and there are not enough workers.

"We have seen a major increase this time last year we were at half capacity right now we are just about full capacity," Oakley said. "The high enrollment you go the more staff you need and we can’t take any more kids to get to our capacity without another staff member.”

At bigger facilities, it’s even worse.

“I would say we’re up probably 20, 30 calls a week more than what we would have had before," Mellody Buzalsky, the owner-director at East Bank Learning Center said. "Currently we do have a waitlist for most of our classroom but we try to keep those openings going.”

"It’s not uncommon especially with infants that you get on a waitlist even before you get pregnant," Oakley said.

That paired with the fact COVID costs, also raises daycare prices.

In Michigan, Governor Whitmer has announced 1.4 billion in federal child care aid to help make care more affordable and to even give workers $500 bonuses to attract more daycare employees.

Early Learning Indiana has awarded grants to over 150 child care providers - at least a dozen in our area to help combat costs.

East Bank Learning Center in South Bend is just one facility being helped out.

“To maintain our high-quality teachers it’s imperative we pay them at a professional rate and that’s incredibly important because that’s how the grant has helped support the teachers through that," Buzalsky said.

But there are also voucher programs that help families directly.

For example, CCDF or the Childcare Development Fund does exactly that – help low-income families obtain child care. It’s done through the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration.

There is also On My Way Pre-K that is specifically for 4-year-olds.

"A lot of programs are a part of the state vouchers and it takes into account your income and helps with the cost of childcare. It’s a great way. There is a waitlist with that because they only open it up for certain times of the year but if you can get in there it is helpful and just securing the ability to get your kids an education in a safe environment while you’re at work," Oakley said.

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