75 percent drop in child care providers has big impact on our area

With schools being canceled this week due to the cold weather, some parents turned to day cares to watch their kids.

Unfortunately, there’s a shortage of child care programs in our area.

So many parents were left out in the cold.

In the last 15 years, there’s been a 75 percent drop of child care providers in our area, according to the Parenting Place.

Wait lists are getting so long that some parents are waiting two years to get their child in a local day care or preschool.

Angie Wells, the child care program director of the Coulee Children’s Center, said, “For infant care we have about 50 families on our waiting list.”

Wells gets calls every day for people looking for child care.

“Those new families that are having children, there’s just no place for them to go in La Crosse County right now,” Wells said.

As a result, some parents are turning to their families for help.

“They might just have family friends that children just kind of get bounced from one place to another so not a really stable place for them to go until there’s an opening,” Wells said.

Others are forced to turn down jobs.

“Some of them have had to stay home from work because they don’t have child care for their children to go so they can’t rejoin the workforce,” Wells said.

Audra Wieser, early care and education director for the Parenting Place, said even if a parent who can’t find childcare accepts a job the quality of their work often suffers.

“We’re also learning about the productivity aspect that child care has on employees and if they’re worried about their child care during the day they’re not thinking about their work so their productivity suffers,” Wieser said.

It’s not just the parents who benefit from child care providers, Wells said children learn basic social skills through day care that prepares them for school.

“Children get to learn routine, they learn those social and emotional skills they get to learn sharing with other children their age,” Wells said.

Wieser said the shortage is the worst she’s seen in two decades, but is hopeful for the future.

“In the years that I’ve been here this is probably the worst that I’ve seen the shortage, but it is also gaining attention which I think is important,” Wieser said.

Most of the day cares and preschools in our area have wait lists for all age groups, but children 2 and under have the biggest wait times.

The biggest problem is that there’s a shortage of workers.

Because of Wisconsin state ratio levels there can only be four children under the age of 2 for each teacher, up to 6 kids from 2 to 2-and-a-half years old, 8 between 2-and-a-half and 3, and up to 10 3-year-olds per teacher.

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