Lincoln child care centers face crisis of cost, staffing


LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) – Recently, parents with kids enrolled in any of the three Bubbles and Blocks Child Development Centers in Lincoln went home with some troubling news: By January, the Centers’ weekly rate per kid will go up $15.

“Those are little kids that we’ve become attached to and we care about, and we want them to feel comfortable coming here and still be able to afford it,” Cory Quimby, owner of Bubbles and Blocks, said. “And not make their life decisions over that $10 or $15 rate increase. So there’s a lot of stress that goes into making that, and we take it very seriously.”

The rate increase follows in the footsteps of other child care centers in the area and across the country and stems from two primary causes: inflation and labor shortages.

Looking at the budget, Quimby says the price he pays for food at the combined locations has gone up $10,000 a month, just in the last two months and Bubbles and Blocks’ 15-person staff shortage puts pressure on him to raise worker pay.

“We’re definitely in a crisis as far as staffing goes. There’s multiple layers to that. A lot of it is related to pay,” Quimby said. “It’s such a balancing act because I’d love to pay our teachers double what we pay them. That’s what they deserve.”

Child care workers have historically faced the issue of low pay. According to researchers at the NU Public Policy Center., the average child care worker in Lincoln makes about 11 dollars an hour.

Lincoln Littles Executive Director Anne Brandt said there’s no easy solution.

“Some centers are increasing that pay, just so that maybe a child care provider could make a living wage,” Brandt said. “And in most cases they don’t because a living wage in Lincoln is more around $16 an hour. So those rates, it has to come from somewhere.”

Both Brandt and Quimby said that ‘where’ almost exclusively falls on the parents, a problem across the U.S. but not the entire world. The U.S. allocates very little public funding to childcare, compared to peer countries, according to data from the organization for economic cooperation and development.

“The quality and expectations of childcare have gone through the roof and the service and product we’re providing is way higher than what you would have had, say 30 or 40 years ago,” Quimby said. “But the system hasn’t changed in order to take the burden off the parents.”

To learn more about what some are calling a crisis in child care from the perspective a parent, you can read last week’s story.

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