Column: Ronda Graff: Child Care: A tale of two employees (5/19/22)


Over the past several years, the McCook Economic Development Corporation has focused on childcare, with innovative programs to boost early childhood care and access. Once a month, Community Connection will share the view of someone intimately involved or affected by our community’s childcare situation. This month, Jerry Calvin shares how child care affects his business, Taco John’s.

As the owner, along with my wife, Robin, of the Taco John’s franchise in McCook, the single-most difficult part of the business is recruiting, training, and retaining quality employees. Just by the nature of the business in which we operate, it takes a specific and resilient type of person to meet the public’s demands.

And to complicate matters even more, as everyone in America is aware of currently, the labor pool is almost non-existent.

In the recent past, we had two different employees who were struggling with the same issue: the lack of childcare for their child.

The first employee was a high school student who was the parent of a young child. He was determined to remain in school and spend the necessary time to take an active role in the child’s life. To do so, he juggled a part-time job to help pay for the child’s needs.

Initially, his family members were able to help care for the child while the employee was working. However, circumstances in the family’s lives made it increasingly difficult to help provide the childcare he needed.

Due to the hours in which he was attending school, the employee was restricted to evening, night, and some weekend hours at Taco John’s. It was a difficult struggle, and it culminated in the employee’s decision to quit his job as he could not continue to stretch himself so thin and still maintain a quality relationship with his child. It basically boiled down to working or helping care for his child.

That, in my opinion, is an easy decision because the child always comes first in these types of situations. So, Robin and I lost a trained, well-performing employee simply because there were no evening and/or night daycare providers available for the hours needed.

The second employee faced a similar struggle but at the other end of the day.

She was a single parent with limited family members to help with childcare. She had the child enrolled in a daycare center, but the hours of operation limited the hours in which she would be available to work for us. She was a very good worker, always on time, had excellent customer skills, and was a great team member. She had it all.

This employee was asking for as many hours as they could possibly have and we offered an “opening,” full-time position. Opening for us is 5:30 a.m. That did not work into the employee’s childcare open/available hours.

And on the back end of the employee’s schedule, the employee had to pick up their child in the middle of the afternoon shift which, again, restricted the employee’s ability to fulfill the obligations necessary to maintain full-time status. The employee wanted to make it work; however, the lack of early morning childcare made it impossible.

I am involved with the McCook Economic Development Corporation and have been for several years. The work that Andy Long and Milva McGhee have accomplished in fostering and supporting our daycare providers is nothing short of a miracle.

Also, hats off to the amazing childcare providers in McCook. Without these wonderfully talented, patient, and caring people, our workforce in McCook would be brought to a standstill.

Be that as it may, we still need more options for people who work various shifts in our workforce. I truly understand the rules and regulations in which our childcare providers must operate. It is unbelievable what they must do to meet the standards required to maintain their licenses.

And, just like Robin and I, they too are struggling to find just the right people who can work in the childcare environment. I continue to be optimistic and hopeful that we can work together to help fill those various needs like the ones in which our two employees were forced to face.

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