Demand for child care locally high, despite claim by closing day care

As first reported Monday, the Childfirst day care locations in Sparta and Holmen are closing at the end of the week.

In a statement to News 8, Childfirst said, “The Coulee Region and even nationally, large daycare centers like Childfirst have seen shrinking use of group daycares as demographics and parental preferences for smaller, often unlicensed, in-home settings has increased.”

For parents working full time, child care is a necessity, but the cost is becoming an increasingly large financial burden. In 33 states, child care costs more than the annual in-state tuition at a four-year public college, but rising costs don’t seem to have slowed down the need for child care locally.

At the YMCA in Onalaska, there are 17 full-time staff members and plenty of part-time help in the child care center. All of those employees are needed because the Y’s child care program is nearly at capacity.

“We currently have 96 kids enrolled,” Steven Torres, early childhood administrator at the YMCA, said.

The Y only has space for 97 kids, ranging from infants to 4-year-olds, and each classroom has a waiting list.

“It all depends. Some families get on our wait list when they’re trying or when they’re just expecting, and then we kind of (try) to move families off the wait list as openings come to our center,” Torres said.

That’s no surprise to staff at the Parenting Place, which, among other things, helps parents find child care options.

Early Care and Education Director at the Parenting Place Audra Wieser said finding openings for young children, especially for under 2 years old, is always tough.

“So the younger ages, it’s a smaller staff-to-child ratio, so the spots are more limited in those age groups and there tend to be waiting lists for the younger ages,” Wieser said.

Wieser said Wisconsin has very strict staff-to-child ratios for day cares, which unfortunately causes prices to increase.

According to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, the cost of nursery school and child care has risen 168 percent since 1990.

But Wieser said cost shouldn’t be everything you look for in a day care for your child.

“We encourage them to look for the setting that’s best for their child. We want them to look for references,” Wieser said.

At the Y, enrollment in child care has stayed near or at capacity for almost a decade, and that isn’t expected to change any time soon.

“There’s always a need for child care, I feel,” Torres said.

The Parenting Place has made 319 child care referrals to parents so far this year.

There are about 140 licensed providers in La Crosse County. Wieser said the Parenting Place hears about openings at day care centers nearly every day and almost as quickly, they seem to be filled.

If you have any questions about child care or finding a provider, contact the Parenting Place at 608-784-4519.