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Child care centers in the Fox Valley are struggling

First Five Fox Valley
Posted at 5:39 PM, Aug 12, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-19 12:43:44-04

OUTAGAMIE COUNTY (NBC 26) — Across the country, parents are struggling to find child care for their kids. However, it’s not only the parents that are struggling.

The child care providers are also facing a lot of challenges. Wait lists are long and providers can’t seem to fill their staff. Ann Potter, the administrative director of Our Shepherd Child Care, has felt those challenges firsthand.

“We’ve been struggling, especially the last year, to find employees,” said Potter.

Thousands of child care centers like hers didn’t make it through the pandemic. Now, the ones left are overburdened.

"We've done things like changing our hours, condensing them a little bit so that our full-time people can stretch over five days instead of four,” said Potter.

There are a multitude of issues in the child care workforce. Barb Tengesdal, the executive director of First Five Fox Valley, outlined some of the issues.

"The issues are wages, health benefits, and then we also don't have a lot of people going into caregiving anymore,” said Tengesdal.

She also explained that the first five years of a child’s life are crucial developmentally, and the quality of workers in this industry is important.

To help ease the strain in the Fox Valley, UW-Madison’s UniverCity Alliance and the La Follette School of Public Affairs conducted a study with Outagamie County to help address those issues and find potential solutions.

“The UniverCity Alliance manages a program where local governments can ask us for any project help. Outagamie County came in and said we need help with this one particular area of childcare,” said Gavin Luter, the managing director of UniverCity Alliance.

Some of the innovative solutions the study found were shared services between a network of child care providers and business community engagement. The study states, "With significant, long-term investment, each of these solutions can provide sustainable solutions to child care challenges."

UniverCity Alliance is continuing to work with Outagamie County to address issues in child care.