This week on NPR News, reporter Solvejg Wastvedt shines a spotlight on family child care providers in Tioga County, a rural area in the state of New York. In areas like Tioga County that have very low population density, commercial child care centers are few and far between, so home-based providers are crucial in meeting the demand for child care. However, as Wastvedt notes, the number of family child care programs – both in Tioga County and nationwide – is decreasing: while older providers are retiring, there aren’t enough new providers opening programs to fill the gaps.
Lynette Brind, a family child care provider who just opened her program, tells NPR why: “I run the house on $200 a week,” she says, explaining that because her program is new, she just has one customer and no other income. Low wages in the child care workforce are an obvious dissuader to potential newcomers to the field. Furthermore, the licensing process took Brind a full eight months because of regulatory barriers put in place to ensure children’s safety. These factors are contributing to the steady decrease in the number of family child care programs nationwide: between 2013 and 2014, the number of programs dropped by approximately 12%.
Ann Shear, who oversees the family child care licensing process in Tioga County, strongly believes that licensing hurdles are necessary to establish a baseline standard of care. However, she recognizes that because the wages are low to attract new family child care providers, and because the county is doing little in the way of active recruitment, the region will soon face a dire child care shortage.
As Teri Brogdale, a retiring family child provider, says, “I’m burned out. Twenty-three years – I’m ready. I’m tired.”
The NPR story highlights the dire need for staffed family child care networks like All Our Kin as well as more supportive public policies that ensure that providers have the wages and resources they need to run high quality, sustainable businesses. All Our Kin supports providers at all stages of their careers as they navigate the licensing process, master basic standards and build high quality early education programs that meet the needs of both children and families. All Our Kin also offers them an opportunity to become a part of a professional network of peers, which is key for providing the support and encouragement necessary to maintain passion, share experiences, discuss challenges, and avoid burnout. In the Connecticut cities where we work, we have seen that providers are eager to step up and enter the field when they have adequate resources and professional support.
We hope that states and communities take note and invest in higher wages and models like ours to combat the child care shortage and ensure that vulnerable children are getting the early learning experiences they need to succeed.
Despite the essential service they provide for children, parents, and communities, family child care providers are often overlooked. Thank you, NPR, for lifting up their voices and needs this week!