Southwest Missouri faces daycare challenges; lack of staff, rising costs

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JASPER COUNTY, Mo.- Southwest Missouri is experiencing an epidemic of deficiency in childcare. 

Local daycares are struggling with retaining qualified staff and keeping up with rising costs.

“Though, one of the things I’m noticing when I go into the centers, they are very short-staffed. They are struggling with gaining staff to come to it, to even put in an application, then to come to an interview that if they do show up, they may only stay one or two days and they’re quitting. So our centers are really struggling to get staff. And so, unfortunately, they’re having ratio issues, which is having closures or they’re just running at bare minimums,” said Tanya Thomas, an Infant Toddler Specialist for The Alliance of Southwest Missouri.

The average hourly wage for a worker at a local daycare is lower than the average fast-food worker. “We actually have some counties here in the southwest region where there is actually zero care. This is one of the fastest professions that people are leaving right now throughout our nation,” said Thomas.

Despite facing daily challenges with staffing, some local daycares are still upholding their standards and qualifications when looking for new employees.

“We want them to succeed. We want to see everybody succeed. And we want to partner with families to build them up, to provide a very valuable and needed service to them all while doing it. Doing it in a way that we can encourage them and be a support in the community,” said Brian Simmons, the family pastor for FBC Learning Center in Carl Junction. 

The community needs to keep daycare workers in mind.

“Incredibly blessed to be able to provide this kind of service to our community. We’re thankful for that opportunity. But if you know a teacher or a daycare worker, please reach out and give them a hug. Tell them how grateful you are for them. Give them a gift card to Starbucks or to a coffee place or a restaurant. We all need a boost of encouragement right now,” said Simmons.

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