DENVER (CBS4)– As more businesses reopen and offices welcome back staff, many working parents are facing the barrier of child care. With many classrooms closed due to lack of demand and revenue throughout the pandemic, limited options for child care are an issue hitting the nation and Colorado.
“What we were seeing now is that there is a demand for those classrooms to reopen,” explained Megan Bock, the Chief Program Officer of Denver Early Childhood Council. “If parents are looking for care and they can’t find care for their children, it’s likely because we don’t have enough teachers to provide that care.”READ MORE: Glenwood Canyon Mudslides Cancel Amtrak's California Zephyr Train Through Colorado Rockies
According to new research from Early Milestones Colorado, more than 64% of families were forced to change child care plans during the pandemic. That includes some child care workers themselves, who had to stay home due to their children’s classrooms closing.
“Their own children’s classrooms were closed, and they helped with remote learning, but now we need our educators to come back,” Bock explained.
Denver Early Childhood Council said only about 7% of programs in Colorado closed during the pandemic. However, many individual classrooms had to close due to lack of demand. Now that demand is back, like many other industries, many child care centers are having a hard time getting the teachers they need to open back up.
“It’s challenging because we have a workforce crisis in early childhood education, so people are paid low wages. Its right around minimum wage is the average salary for people who work in child care programs,” Bock said. “We have always had a challenge of getting folks into the field and it’s just been exacerbated because of the pandemic.READ MORE: Colorado Weather: Monsoon Storms Become More Numerous Monday And Tuesday
The DECC added that now as centers also facing competition from other businesses offering large incentives, benefits or better pay.
Emily Bustos, CEO of Denver Early Childhood Council said it comes down to public funding, and there are some things currently in the works that she hopes will relieve some pressure. That includes two COVID relief packages the federal government is currently working on, along with a bill recently signed by Gov. Jared Polis that helps employers build on-site child care for workers.
“Some of those dollars will go directly to child care programs and some of those dollars will go directly to parents to help with the costs of care,” Bustos said, regarding the relief packages.
As many working parents plan their return to the office this fall, she urges parents to start planning ahead.MORE NEWS: Highway 125 In Grand County Closed For Mudslide
“It’s going to be a lot more challenging to find a Fall slot because everyone will be looking for that,” she explained, adding it’s also good to call your child care center now. “That helps give the sites a heads up that there is the demand. It gives them a little leeway also which is a good thing.”