Experts discuss the child care workforce crisis and its local impact – Leader Publications


MICHIGAN — As parents have returned to work during the COVID-19 pandemic, a national child care crisis has come to the fore. Michigan leaders gathered to discuss what has been done and what needs to be done.

Michigan works! The association convened a panel of experts on February 15 to address the state of child care following a February 1 report by the Michigan League for Public Policy titled “Early childhood worker in crisis which points to a dwindling number of child care workers, endemic low wages, lack of resources and lack of training available to workers in the industry.

During the roundtable, MLPP’s Kids Count project director Kelsey Perdue said there are approximately 28,000 child care workers in Michigan, serving more than 330,000 infants and toddlers. . the MLPP Report also indicates that child care workers are generally less well paid, with less training, the younger the child they care for.

“It really goes against what science says about them for brain development, which happens most rapidly in the first few years of our lives,” Perdue said. “So it’s really concerning that those looking after our youngest children are getting the lowest wages.”

According to the report, nearly one in five early educators live in poverty, and low wages lead to high staff turnover rates.

“No matter how many times I hear that ‘one in five’ number, it’s really tough,” said panel moderator Michelle Richard, who is early childhood policy adviser to Governor Whitmer. “Especially as someone who drops my baby off with an early care attendant every day.”

Local impact

According to Center for American Progress, 44 percent of Michigan residents live in a child care wilderness, with 56 percent of low-income families living in areas without enough child care providers. A babysitting desert is defined as any census tract with more than 50 children under age 5 that contains no child care providers or so few options that there are more than three times as many children as licensed childcare slots.

According to the data, Niles, Dowagiac, Cassopolis, Edwardsburg, and Buchanan each have at least one census tract that contains a child care wilderness. In the Niles region, there are two sectors with at least 46 children per available childcare slot.

Several local child care options are available through the YMCA of Greater Michiana. The YMCA Niles-Buchanan runs a Childwatch program Monday through Saturday for children six weeks to eight years old, and also offers full-day childcare and developmental programs at the Northside Child Development Center for infants, toddlers and preschoolers.

Zecheriah Hoyt, director of early childhood development for the YMCA of Greater Michiana, said the waiting list and the list of inquiries for their programs are growing daily.

“The balance between meeting needs, expansion, staffing and quality are all juggled,” Hoyt said. “The YMCA of Greater Michiana is built on three main pillars: social responsibility, healthy living and youth development. Applying these principles to our staff is vital as they provide these opportunities to those we serve. We are aware of salaries and continue to improve them, benefits include reduced childcare costs, paid certifications, job search incentives, access to our facilities and strive to create a family culture.

Hoyt added that the YMCA also works with families who need help funding child care.

“If families are not eligible and need help, we will support them through a scholarship process,” he said. “This process is funded by many partners. … Our current challenge is to work with employers to help reduce parenting costs.

Moving forward

Panelist Joan Blough, director of the Child Care Innovation Fund at the Early Childhood Investment Corporation, said her company is working to build a network of people across the state to meet child care needs. The company launched a Child Care Innovation Fund, which aims to serve all 83 counties in the state.

“From crisis comes opportunity,” Blough said. “A lot more people in Michigan and in the United States really understand these issues that we’re talking about. … These are community conversations where people see that their friends and neighbors cannot return to work. Their businesses are failing because they don’t have daycare.

The state government has said it is making child care a priority, with Governor Gretchen Whitmer allocating $365 million to nearly 6,000 child care programs in Michigan through the grant stabilization of child care. According to state data, Cass County received 20 grants worth more than $650,000, while Berrien County received 74 grants worth nearly $4 million.

“Governor. Whitmer championed investing in affordable, high-quality health care, both as a strategy to ensure our young people have a path to educational success, but also so their families can return to work. knowing that their children are being taken care of,” said Richard, during the panel discussion.”[But] we know there is so much more to do.

Elisabeth Tobia, CEO of the EC3 Educational Child Care Center, said Michigan should do more to help through direct funding, not just for providers but also for families. A recent study published by the Economic Policy Institute shows that the cost of child care for an infant is only 12.7% less than the cost of in-state tuition at a public four-year college. .

“A much larger share of the state budget should be allocated to supporting providers, families and teachers,” Tobia said. “The state really needs to lead the call to understand that early learning is a fundamental part of the public education system. Universal Pre-K is a great start, but it can’t stop there. The government of the state must work with providers to make this universal, 0-5 You will have happy families, workers, businesses and a better economy.


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