Staffing shortage keeps daycares from opening up more childcare slots

Published: Sep. 13, 2021 at 6:25 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Several daycare providers across the state were recently awarded money to help create more childcare slots for families, but the problem is there isn’t enough staff to welcome more kids.

The money awarded through the “Investing in Iowa’s Child Care” program helps fund expansions and projects meant to create more childcare openings in a community.

Angela Campbell is the co-owner of Happy Hollow Preschool and Childcare in Cedar Rapids, which was one of those that was awarded funding. The money should be helping them add 50 new slots, but lack of staffing has pumped the breaks on that move.

”It was an absolute blessing just to be able to stock up the rooms and be completely ready. They did allow some funding for staffing but getting the staffing has been a struggle,” Campbell said.

Daycares need to follow Department of Human Services guidelines for ratios of children to staff. So, even though Happy Hollow is prepared to welcome more children, they can’t take kids off the waitlist just yet.

KidsPoint in Cedar Rapids is another facility in the same boat. They were also awarded money, their project will create 246 new spots, but they don’t have the staff to allow for that right now.

Miranda Niemi is the president of a regional childcare association as well as executive director at Collins Aerospace Day Academy in Cedar Rapids. She told us staffing is so thin she doubles as one of the primary teachers for the 3-year-olds.

”We’ve had 14 resignations in about a 5-week time frame,” Niemi said.

Niemi said they found other, higher-paying jobs, and daycares can only afford to pay workers so much.

At Happy Hollow, Campbell said she believes unemployment is still a factor to people not returning to the profession, despite extra pandemic-related benefits ending.

“There are people that are in need of unemployment, but like anything I think the system gets abused,” Campbell explained.

We asked Niemi what she believes the answer is to the staffing dilemma daycares are facing.

”I think early childhood and childcare centers need to be funding like K-12 systems are,” Niemi said.

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