SUNBURY – Home childcare is essential for working families and the economy, according to a new report touted by Valley early childhood advocates on Friday.
“Childcare is an important and necessary part of our family life,” said Laura Rice, the working mother of an 18-month-old home-enrolled son in Sunbury, during a Friday morning panel discussion on the nationwide childcare crisis.
Knowing that their child is being individually cared for by a consistent caregiver with flexible hours gives Rice the peace of mind that he was on a waiting list for a year before being accepted.
A recent report released by Ready Nation, Council for a Strong America found that the number of family childcare facilities in Pennsylvania has declined 32 percent in the past few years, and nearly half of the 1,000+ childcare programs, despite being for economic recovery Home providers are essential that have been permanently closed since the outbreak of the pandemic.
“And before the pandemic, there wasn’t enough,” said Kimberly Early, director of public policy and advocacy for the PA Association of Young Children, who added that 92 percent of childcare programs in the state have a staff shortage that keeps about 26,000 children on a waiting list .
The challenges are great, said Denise Cressman. She has run a home childcare program in Danville since 1991 and is one of the few to receive a Keystone 4 Star Rating or the Highest Quality Program.
The average hourly wage for a childcare worker in Pennsylvania is $ 10.69 – Cressman said she made just over $ 13,000 last year – despite the work they do to raise young minds.
Plus, she said the hours are long and for a quality worker the p -erwork is overwhelming as she came up with stacks of p -er listing the regulations she must meet to get a Keystone 4-star rating despite her is the only employee.
Cressman wanted to retire in late 2019 but had to stay in the job when her car broke down and she couldn’t afford payments for a new car.
“I’m 65 and I have no pension or 401k,” she said.
But the relationships she has built with the children in her care and their families are lifelong, said Cressman, who spoke of being invited to graduation ceremonies, weddings, christenings, and other major celebrations.
Kurt Schertle, chief operations officer of Weis Markets, said the lack of childcare is what causes the labor shortage that is affecting his company and many others.
“It is a big hurdle for us to get employees,” he said.
The company is in favor of federal and state subsidies because Weis cannot afford to provide on-site daycare for its 27,000 employees in seven states.
State Representative Lynda Schlegel Culver said lawmakers are paying close attention to the federal dollars sent to the state to address some of these issues.
“Many of us are committed and know the struggles. If parents don’t trust reliable care, they are not reliable employees and the providers have to be well rewarded, ”she said.
In addition to Ready Nation’s recommendations to provide mentoring opportunities for home-based providers, revise the Keystone Stars program, and increase provider compensation and reimbursement rates, Cressman said a qualified replacement pool must be available and state law needs to be revised to allow PreK Counts to be offered in domestic settings.
Increasing the number of accessible and affordable home childcare providers is critical for businesses “to secure and retain employees and get children off to a good start in life,” said Art Thomas, chairman of the Greater’s Early Learning Investment Commission Susquehanna Valley.