BLACKSBURG, Va. (WDBJ) – Child care centers are working hard to make a comeback.
Judy Shelor of Valley Interfaith Childcare Center says staffing is their biggest hurdle, forcing them to temporarily close two of their rooms and reduce capacity due to teacher-to-child ratios.
“Without the staff, we can’t enroll more children, so we’ve lost half of our staff due to staff issues,” says Shelor. “Without these two rooms, we cannot serve 18 students, 18 families”
A stabilization grant through the US bailout gave the center $ 117,000, enabling it to offer loyalty bonuses and increase starting wages by $ 2 / hr.
“It’s a lifeline. It’s a lifeline for us to have the means to pay our staff, ”adds Shelor.
Other providers in the area are investing the money to help low-income families.
“We can also provide support to families who need help with school fees. One of our priorities is therefore that families who have struggled throughout the pandemic to cover all their expenses, ”said Karen Gallagher, director of the Virginia Tech Childhood Development Center.
Gallagher says the grant money only goes as far as when there is a shortage of workers in their field, and fewer options for families could result in poorer quality care in informal settings, or parents being forced to stay at home with their children.
“It saved my center and many centers, and we’re grateful, but we’re really looking for a long-term solution where we can put those grant funds into wages and salaries,” Gallagher explains.
Virginia Tech’s early childhood education initiative was formed to examine access and affordability of care, partnering with local centers to think about how to rebuild and retain their workforce .
Work intensity and the pay scale were cited as the main reasons for the vast turnover rate, which has increased nationally to 60%.
“We hope to encourage and inspire educators to come into this field and stay in early childhood, this birth until five years old,” says Kim Thomason, program manager. “What we do know is that we need to support the community agencies and partners we have in their efforts to stabilize and recruit our current workforce.”
The stabilization grant is still available through the Virginia Department of Education, and applications are open until November 30.
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