May 15, 2021

Staffing, not funding, key to daycares

President Joe Biden in his address to a joint session of Congress Wednesday announced his $1.8 trillion child care plan for low and middle-income families. These families could pay no more than 7% of their income in child care and $225 billion would go toward child care for children under the age of 5.

For some time, access to child care in Union County has been a struggle for both families and providers. Amber Kearney of I Think I Can daycare in Creston said staffing shortages contribute to the problem.

“If we had more staffing, we’d be able to take more kids,” Kearney said. “But, I mean, everybody around town, they’re having trouble finding staff.”

Kearney added the monetary incentive isn’t there for people to go into child care.

“...We don’t pay as much as the fast food or you know, like Walmart, or places like that, so I think that’s one of the biggest issues.”

Kearney also said child care funding should be more balanced so families can afford the service and providers can amply pay their staff.

“I think it should be equal because I know some parents can’t necessarily afford child care, either,” she said. “Because we have some kids that are on child care assistance but there’s certain income guidelines for that.”

Kearney said if the income guidelines were more relaxed, working families could have a better time sending their kids to child care.

The current eligibility guidelines for Child Care Assistance (CCA) in Iowa qualifies families with children under 13, or under 19 if they have special needs for this program. Families are also eligible if they get help from the Family Investment Programs (FIP) and working, training, looking for work or receiving full-time education for a total of 28 hours a week.

However, Jon Beedy, who operates Tinker Tots daycare with her daughter Brandi Snyder, said low-income families don’t often use her services.

“I do accept low-income families, they pay whatever you want to say, but it’s probably been 10 years since I’ve had anybody in the low-income family line,” Beedy said.

She added her services are mostly promoted anecdotally by people who she has provided for and know her availability.

“I think it’s a word-of-mouth of who have openings and the class of people that I have,” Beedy said. “At one point, four years ago, I had more stay-at-home moms that could afford to send their children to daycare and they were at home.”

Beedy gave an example of having provided for the child of a full-time SWCC student as one of the few low-income parents she has served.

Tinker Tots is a child development home with two providers. Beedy said the regulations that impose limits on how many children she can provide for are inadequate.

“I had seven calls last week of infants alone, so there’s definitely a need for more child care or more slots opened up now,” she said.