Parents scramble as child care centers face shortages

Coronavirus

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Many shortages came out of the coronavirus pandemic including toilet paper and microchips, but now, parents are having a hard time finding child care.

Without enough child care, West Michigan parents say they can’t get back to work.

Meanwhile, local child care centers are having to cutback on the number of kids due to staffing shortages.

Although child care options were limited pre-coronavirus, parents and providers say the pandemic has only magnified the problem.

One Kent City parent told News 8 she began the search months before her son was even born.

An undated courtesy photo of Shelby Orelkoski and her family.

“It was probably June or July (of last year) and I had reached out to places and said, ‘I’m due in October’ and was told it’ll be for January … before there’s an opening,” Shelby Orelkoski said.

January came and went, without any openings.

Orlekoski called countless other places only to find the waitlists had grown longer and the competition fiercer.

Unable to find adequate child care for their son, the new parents had to cut back at work. Orlekoski, a medical assistant at Metro Health, switched to part time, while her wife switched to the weekend shift.

A licensed in-home day care provider out of Portage said the pandemic made the child care issue even more challenging on families, especially working parents.

“Then COVID hit and … there were some centers that I know of that even though they were closed, they were making parents still pay to potentially keep that spot open for their child if they were to reopen,” Morgan Slater of Slater’s Safari said.

Meanwhile, larger day care centers are facing a shortage of their own.

Joyful Noise Christian Childcare in Grand Haven recently reopened with fewer kids than ever. The director said they have the space but not the staff.

“We’re letting parents know … we have the spaces here, but we don’t have the hands to care for your children yet,” Joyful Noise Director Sally Segers said. “That’s hard to say to parents that are really needing to get back to work now, and work outside the home.”

Segers said finding qualified staff has always been a challenge in child care, but even more so as other industries ramp up pay in the face of the ongoing workforce shortage.

The financial component to the crisis also weighs heavy on parents. Several families said finding child care is challenging, and finding affordable child care is next to impossible.

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