Local Parents Express Need for Childcare Access, Affordability

By Bethaney Phillips

Note: The Regional team spoke with six families in regards to the experience with childcare needs. Though each agreed to speak on the record, we chose to omit names in regards to personal privacy, income ambiguity, and safety of children and their locations.

In 2016, three families – all new to town – found themselves in a childcare crisis. Each had one child, two professional working parents, and zero options when it came to daytime care for their children.

Family One was able to land a nanny while Mom worked from home, Family Two, Dad quit his job to become a stay-at-home parent, and Family Three had Grandma move to town – from across the state – in order to care for her grandchild.

“We needed year-round care,” said a member of Family Three.

Adding that childcare is the biggest reason for co-workers to be absent from work, or even why they quit.

“I totally understand,” Three said. “I’ve been there and it can be a huge mess.”

Meanwhile, Family Two inherited Family One’s nanny when that Mother decided to stay at home. The Dad of Family Two, who stayed home with his two young daughters, said quitting his job was a difficult but necessary choice.

“It was something very different. I’d always been in the workforce and had not planned on being a full-time caregiver. That was a big shift personally.” He added that, being new to the area, they didn’t have family or friends to rely upon.

“You have to do what you have to do in those cases.”

Eight years later, not much in childcare availability for Clay Center has changed. Family Four moved to town in 2023 and asked the advice of new friends on who could watch their child.

“Everywhere we called there was no opening. That’s something I didn’t anticipate when starting a family.”

Despite looking months in advance, while she was four months pregnant, they couldn’t land a spot.

“It’s definitely been something that’s been hard for my husband and I moving to the community, trying to find somewhere for our [child] to be kept,” she said. Four added that, aside from the childcare issues, they have loved the community as a whole. They ended up sharing a full-time daycare slot for their child and found a local grandparent to fill in on other days. (The grandparent also serves as the daytime childcare for their own grandchildren.)

“I almost cried when [they] said yes because we had been looking for so long and we finally found someone.” Four added that find- ing childcare will allow her spouse to re-enter the local workforce full-time. The lack of childcare doesn’t just plague those who are new to town, either.

Family Five, decided to have one parent work part-time to help fill in with child care. The other days of the week were handled by the child’s Grandma and Four’s nanny, who came from out of town and would stay with them overnight.

Finally, Family Six opted to get rid of daycare stress once and for all. After more than eight years in the workforce, Mom decided to stay home before the birth of her third child.

“It was going to be a huge weekly expense; I would pretty much just be working for childcare,” Six said.

Weekly daycare in Clay County averages $120-150 per child, according to local providers. For a family with two children, that’s up to $15,600 per year. And for someone making $16 per hour, 25% of their income for a single child. Six also said their first child was cared for by a combination of family members for the first six months of their life.

“I asked around and there was nowhere that had an opening for an infant and well, you have to do what you have to do.” 

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