Southwestern Indiana Staffing Woes Made Worse by Child Care Crisis
Abigail Gordon sits on a folding chair outside her house in the Waterford Pointe Mobile Home Park on Evansville’s southeast side. It’s her day to be home caring for her three boys – ages 1, 2 and 3. Her husband left at 4:30am for his 12-hour day as a driver. Tomorrow, they switch – he will stay with the boys and she will leave at dawn to work a long day at a nearby nursing home.
“I’m gone before they get up, I don’t see them but for an hour. I like to put them to bed, bathe them, read them a book, give them kisses…”
Abigail says the adults can’t afford not to work but they can’t afford childcare either.
She says if daycare was affordable and available, she could pursue advanced opportunities and maybe even save some money, but for now this is her life.
“We live paycheck to paycheck. It’s hard.”
Meanwhile, Sara Worstell, executive director at Southwest Indiana Workforce, is fielding requests from area employers looking for workers with Abigail’s qualifications. It seems the jobs are there, job seekers are there, but a critical component is missing.
“We know about substantial waitlists. We may help them get on that waitlist but that seriously impacts how soon they can return to work."
According to recent childcare provider records from the State of Indiana, average cost for day care in Vanderburgh County is $137 per week, per child. IF centers are fully staffed there are around 7,000 day care spots. But census data reports there are 13,000 zero to five year old children in the county.
Aleisha Sheridan is the CEO at Building Blocks – a resource across twenty-eight Indiana counties that helps facilitate child care referrals among many other services. A parent can connect with Building Blocks to discuss child care needs and Building Blocks will get to work finding possibilities.
Staff from WorkForce often connects job-seekers to Building Blocks. The hope is parents find child care and then they can accept one of many available jobs. But Sheridan says, child care centers are employers too – employers also struggling to find workers.
“The issue at hand is staffing. We have one a few blocks away that has two full rooms that are closed because of staffing. She has 133 kids on the waiting list but she doesn’t have the staff. The wages aren’t comparable to the work. Getting paid $10 for 6, 8, 12 hours with children all day long. It’s tough.”
Is the solution just to offer more money? Sheridan says that may be part of it.
"Would that make it more competitive with Target that is paying $20 an hour? Yes."
Abigail Gordon agrees that child care workers should be paid more. But, she recognizes that may mean the cost is past on to working families.
So employers are desperate for workers, and workers are desperate for childcare, but those child care centers are also desperate for workers…what’s the solution?
Sheridan says there is no easy solution to the problem, but they’re working on it.
“Systemic change doesn’t happen overnight. Having the right data, having legislators come on board. But then we need businesses and strong voices and stakeholders to realizes this is about our community.”