Officials: North Country Child Care in Crisis | New
PLATSBURGH – The pandemic continues to plague the region’s already struggling child care system, as evidenced by the loss of nearly 900 child care spaces in the tri-county region over the past two years, making more difficult than ever for parents in North Country to find care for their children when they need it most.
Sara Allen Taylor, project manager for the Child Care Coordinating Council of the North Country, said child care was scarce before the pandemic with an average of six children per open slot. Child care capacity has since declined by around 16% in Clinton and Franklin counties and more than 30% in Essex County.
“It was already something that we were banging our heads against the wall and saying, ‘This is a fit. People have to be careful.’ It only got worse. “
CANNOT ALLOW YOURSELF
Allen Taylor noted various causes for the decline in child care options, including difficulties in being regulated in New York State and being able to charge enough for the service.
“The average median income here is around $ 50,000. A family with two children in care pays an average of $ 15,000 per year. If they have an infant and a preschooler in a day care center … they could pay 35% of their income just for child care, ”said Allen Taylor.
“In other words,” added CEO Jamie Basiliere, “parents cannot afford the true cost of child care.”
While many child care programs change tuition fees to meet parents in the middle, Allen Taylor said that in turn takes away from his own income.
CALL TO WORK
In the continuing days of the COVID-19 pandemic, many school-aged students in the region have been sent home to quarantine after coming into contact with a positive classmate or school employee.
This begs the question: How do working mothers, fathers and guardians behave when their children are quarantined at school or daycare?
“Employers have been more flexible in structuring work so parents can work remotely when needed, but it depends on the type of work you do,” Taylor said. “If it’s not available… someone has to be able to stay with this child.
This has led to parents calling for work or not working at all to be home with the children.
“This is also why we hear that there has been such a mental health crisis about this as well, and why employers are struggling to fill vacancies,” said Allen Taylor.
Basilière called child care services the centerpiece of the economic development puzzle.
“There are people who cannot go to work at the moment, who have just been out of unemployment for a year or so who would like to return to work, but who have given up their childcare place. If they have a baby or a toddler, a kid under the age of two, there’s really no niche to be found. “
Kelly McDonald, mother of three and city clerk for the town of Mooers, called her family lucky.
Her husband, Derrick, currently works nights at the border and her part-time day job offers some flexibility.
“Usually we don’t have to find daycare. We are very lucky because we have someone at home all the time.
Which bodes well in the COVID era, allowing its three students at Mooers Elementary School to avoid the bus last year and stay home with a parent if exposed to the COVID.
Daughter Amelia, 10, was recently stuck at home for three days for the same reason.
“I think that’s a big part of why some people have had to quit their jobs and why a lot of companies are having problems,” McDonald said. “I hope it improves for them with the remote options that are not available in most districts, but, as a parent, what can you do? And as a daycare manager, how are you teaching different levels of kids and keeping everyone in line? I don’t know. “
Many school districts in the area moved away last year to keep children at bay in hopes of slowing the spread of the novel coronavirus, and several have started this year moving classrooms, classrooms and / or rooms. entire buildings towards shorter-term virtual learning as they respond to COVID exposures in their schools.
“A lot of providers and child care programs have taken on the responsibilities of distance learning,” Basilière said of the 2020-21 school year. “They would have young people lined up with their laptops and Chromebooks at the kitchen table and in every nook and cranny.
“They didn’t always feel confident or competent in what they were doing, but they were doing their best and parents had to rely on them to manage distance learning.”
This is why Basilière called childcare professionals the “unsung heroes” of the pandemic.
“We have thanked the front line healthcare workers, we have thanked the front line retail workers and we have to thank our child care professionals. .
“They played roles, like teachers, that they had never played before.”
The Child Care Coordinating Council of the North Country, a nonprofit organization headquartered in Plattsburgh, hopes to build a pipeline to rebuild childcare opportunities in the area.
The hope is to find sufficient funding opportunities to support the addition of a recruiter and developer, and to help individuals register to become providers and be trained in financial accounting.
Basiliere thought it would take $ 300,000 over three years, so $ 100,000 a year, to do it in Clinton County. The plan would be replicated in Franklin County.
“I think in probably 18 months we could probably rebuild what we’ve lost and then go from there and seriously build up the supply,” the executive director said.
“We have the plans and the passion,” added Allen Taylor. “We are working to find the funding to be able to support it and make it happen. There are people who want to be a child care provider, are ready to be a child care provider, but it can seem like a daunting process. “
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