“Right now I would say the state of child care in our area is actually a child care crisis,” said The Parenting Place Early Care and Education Director Audra Wieser.
It’s a problem many families in western Wisconsin are facing: how to find affordable, reliable child care for their little ones.
And it’s at a boiling point with child care centers closing far more frequently than they are opening.
“If they are doing family child care, many are leaving the field for positions that have higher wages or offer benefits. The same is true for group child care, the wages that are paid in child care tend to be about 10-12 dollars per hour,” said Wieser.
In Wisconsin, more than half the population live in what is called a “Child Care Desert” according to the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families.
That’s where there are more than three times the number of children to available child care spots in a particular zip code.
In La Crosse County in 2018, there were 2,669 spots at regulated child care centers for the 6,148 children under the age of five in the county.
“Rules in child care are made for a reason and there’s a solid reason behind those. But with every change in regulation, with every increase in regulation we’ve seen a decrease in the number of child care providers,” said Wieser.
With child care facilities continuing to close, parents are starting to rely on family, friends, themselves or others for their child care needs.
Including child care providers that are unregulated.
“We know that sometimes families are forced to make a choice. It’s not the one that they really want, but some of the concerns related to unregulated care would be background checks. And really not being aware of just the people who are caring for children,” said The Parenting Place Executive Director Jodi Widuch.
Wieser and Widuch say the solution will be complicated, and can’t just be opening more regulated child care centers because they are rarely able to turn a profit.