ROCHESTER, Minn. – The need for more child care access and options continues to be a concern all across the area.
For many different reasons, the child care industry is facing a crisis that goes beyond the pandemic.
Providers are facing issues that include increased demand for child care access and finding enough staff at child care facilities due to low wages.
“It’s not a very rewarding field in terms of monetary compensation. And so in the way the economy is, families are looking for jobs that have a higher salary,” says Director of Eureka Kids, Amanda Drazkowski.
Eureka Kids’ in Rochester is experiencing the impacts of the high demand for child care enrollment. Its primary center has been full for more than a year and the business recently opened a second building to increase access for the community.
“Having the other center open really gave us us the opportunity for our families to expand across the street,” Drazkowski adds.
It is a struggle for many Minnesotans to afford childcare and the pandemic has only made things harder.
“All of these different caring community and industries and businesses are tied to each other. When you have shortages in child care, it’s going to have an impact on other businesses that are employing people that need that care,” says Bharti Wahi, Deputy Assistant Commissioner for Children and Family Services at the Minnesota Department of Human Services.
Many providers continue to experience financial hardships caused by rising costs, quarantine closures, staffing shortages, and parents who may not return to work.
The Minnesota Department of Human Services has distributed more than $100 million in Child Care Stabilization Grants to child care providers across the state in recent months to help with the employment crisis child care providers are facing.
“I think we’re experiencing a labor shortage across many industries and childcare is certainly one of them. Providing child care is a labor intensive type of work, and requires staff that can really meet the needs of children,” Wahi adds.
Drazkowski says they’ve experienced a decline in qualified staffing as they try to find employees who have the experience or education requried by the state.
Like many others in the area, they’ve tried to stay competitive by raising tuition prices to increase wages for staff.
“Those kind of changes are difficult for our families, but they’re also necessary for our staff and to keep that quality staff that we’re looking for.”
Drazkowski hopes to see a change in terms of funding for early childhood programs.
Between the two centers they have about 35 employees and are looking to hire at least ten more to keep up with the new center once it reaches full capacity.
In response to the child care employment crisis, the Child Care Stabilization Grant Program will go through June of 2023.