DIGGING DEEPER: Breaking down the childcare crisis in Central Wisconsin | News


WAUSAU, Wis. (WAOW) — Finding affordable childcare is an issue that many families in Northcentral Wisconsin deal with. This map from the Department of Children and Families shows that Northcentral Wisconsin has fewer childcare centers than most of the Badger State.

“It’s not something that I anticipated being as difficult to find as it has been,” Sarah Tiggas, a Wausau mom of two, said.

Her life has been impacted trying to find care for her children.

“I’ve really kind of had to bounce around my work schedule to get everything sorted out for before and after school care,” she said.

And Tiggas isn’t alone. Many families are dealing with similar issues.

“I had to quit my job to stay home with my girls,” Julia Nowak, mother of two, said. “Daycare was too expensive and hard to find people I actually trust.”

The last few years in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic has only made finding reliable and affordable child care even more difficult.

“The COVID epidemic has impacted a system that was already struggling prior to that,” Kelly Borchardt, Executive Director of Childcaring, said.

Now, parents are hunting for quality care, with many childcare facilities over-booked.

“Our next infant opening is not until almost December of 2023,” Amy Kurkowski, Center Director, at Trinity Learning Center, said.

If parents do find a spot for their kids, cost is another concern.

“Essentially, you have a business that doesn’t have a whole lot of profit, it’s very tight margins and it’s really sort of self-funded,” Borchardt said. “When there’s not extra support, it makes it super high and expensive for families.” 

According to Childcaring, the average monthly price of family childcare in Marathon County is around $638. In Lincoln County, it’s $602. Portage County’s average is about $704.

Tiggas, who only needs after-school and occasional full-time care, says she pays around $500 each month.

“I’m trying my hardest to cut costs other places to get that in place,” Tiggas said. “It’s been a little difficult but it’s been manageable up until this point.” 

Kurkowski says Trinity Learning Center tries to keep tuition similar to other centers, but a workforce shortage and other factors makes it hard to keep costs down.

“There’s more than just paying teachers at a childcare center, we pay heat and electric and our food costs have gone way up, buying supplies or different equipment they may need,” she said.

Childcaring helps both families and childcare centers alike. One of the solutions they have to deal with the crisis is to start your own childcare.

“If you have young children, sometimes that’s a great way to stay home with your own children,” Borchardt said, “(You can) take in a few more children and then you can have a steady source of income for a bit.”

Nowak’s dream?

“Daycares inside the workplace.” 

However, to fully tackle the childcare issue, Borchardt and Kurkowski have one big answer: advocacy.

They say families and childcare services must team up to educate legislatures.

“It involves a lot of people coming together to figure it out, because what works here in Mosinee, might not work in Athens or Edgar or Stevens Point,” Borchardt said.

Childcaring does offer financial help for both families and childcare centers. If you need help finding care, you can contact Childcaring, the Department of Children and Families or try groups on Facebook.

If you decide to find childcare through Facebook or word-of-mouth, Childcaring does have tips to make sure it’s the right fit for your family.

Borchardt suggests doing background checks, getting references and asking what kind of training or education they have.

She also recommends visiting the home or space and asking what kind of activities they’ll do with your children.

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