Choosing someone who will not only watch, but teach my child when he’s not in my care is one of the most important decisions, I feel as a parent, I am called to make,” explains Laura Smith.
Ideally parents find a child care provider that matches their work hours, is located near or on the way to work and meets their quality standards. However, the leading factor for finding child care around Rochester lately has been availability.
LACK OF AVAILABILITY
There is a shortage of child care providers in the Rochester area. Smith started looking for child care when she was just three months pregnant with her first child. She contacted more than 100 different providers (both in-home child care and child care centers). According to Smith, “All of them for the most part said the same thing: ‘I feel for you.’”
Families First of Minnesota is a nonprofit organization in our community working as a resource for parents, child care programs and community members in all areas of early childhood. Of child care challenges, they comment, “Our main concern is the lack of available child care for infants and toddlers, and the cost of care, specifically in a child care center. There is also a lack of available child care for non-standard hours, i.e. evenings and weekends.” They also explain that these issues are common across the state, not just in Rochester.
ACCESSIBILITY, AFFORDABILITY AND QUALITY
According to Stacey York, Rochester Community and Technical College child development program faculty, “This issue of child care has been described as a three-legged stool—accessibility, affordability and quality.” Parents want easy access to affordable, quality child care programs.
York explains there are a variety of different child care settings. These include family child care, group family child care, nonprofit child care, for-profit child care owned by an individual, corporate (chain) child care, franchise child care, Head Start, public school and private school.
York says, “It is hard to have quality when wages are so low and staff turn over at a rate of 30-50 percent.” Low wages and demands on providers cause turnover at centers and in the profession. However, many providers have found it profitable and rewarding.
CHILD CARE CHALLENGES AND REWARDS
State regulations and higher quality guidelines are making child care more challenging, but providers still find child care careers worth their time.
Christina Jacobs has been providing in-home child care for 24 years. “I love children, especially the younger ones, so home day care seemed like a good fit,” she says. “While we do learning activities daily, a lot of our day is spent teaching children how to be kind, patient, share and to be good friends. Then we focus on traditional classroom learning.” One of the biggest challenges for her and many other providers is the lack of adult interaction. Additionally, she states that new guidelines and Parent Aware star rating programs have become overwhelming.
Cherie Jensen did in-home child care for 22 years and earlier this year became an Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE) paraprofessional for Rochester Public Schools. The challenges she faced as an in-home provider were, she says, “The long, long, long hours, never being able to truly leave work and getting people to understand that you are not a baby sitter.” She also says, “(The) huge increase in rules and regulations and the expectations of school readiness have become overwhelming.”
HELPING PROVIDERS BE MORE SUCCESSFUL
Sylvie Saxton was an in-home day care provider in Rochester. She recognizes child care providers as professional businesswoman running a day care business. She knows it is very challenging, and she understands that day care providers often feel misunderstood, isolated and discouraged. Saxton created the website Fabulous Provider, where she helps women connect with each other and find practical tips how to run a successful day care business.
Families First tries to connect with people who may be considering entering the child care field. They offer information on start-up grants and professional development and connect them with available resources from other agencies and organizations supporting child care professionals.
Jorrie Johnson is a publisher and editor of Rochester Women magazine. She serves on the RAEDI Journey to Growth early childhood committee that is strategizing solutions to the childcare challenges.