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Childcare crisis: what's being done to improve wages

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Posted at 6:24 PM, Sep 26, 2022

NORTH BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Western New York is no stranger to the childcare crisis.

Recently, Doodlebugs, a daycare facility, in Orchard Park, has shut down its infant care room beginning Monday because of a lack of staff, according to a mother who sends her baby there.

7 News reached out several times about the closure, but the company has declined to comment.

SEE ALSO:Childcare facility closes infant care temporarily due to staffing shortage

The facility has told the families it expect to have the room closed for at least four weeks. It's an industry that can require a lot of staff to stay afloat. State regulations require infant care rooms to have at least one staff member for every three kids, and there can't be more than six babies in one classroom.

For kids between six weeks and 18 months, there has to be one teacher for every four kids, so classes can't be larger than eight, and research shows many childcare employees are not making a livable wage.

Danielle Kinsman, owner and director of Jumped Up Jellybeans Child Care Center on Hertel Avenue in North Buffalo, understands the issue well.

"Day to day everyday is a challenge. We try to take it day by day," Kinsman said.

For her, staffing is a big challenge.

"We have to watch very closely because we have to follow ratios, so if a staff member calls off and we can't get a substitute to come in then you have to close the classroom depending on the amount of children that we have," she added.

Kinsman said she is lucky to have good staff, but their paychecks are not enough.

"I think there needs to be a push like there was for fast food workers for daycare workers," she said.

Sheri Scavone, CEO of WNY Women's Foundation, said by not valuing and investing in childcare, it then boils down to childcare not being available.

"Childcare is the foundation on which businesses on which our economy grows and by not investing in that we are really undoing our economy and our potential for our economy," Scavone said.

A recent study by Cornell University IRL Buffalo looked at childcare in our area and found:

  • The annual average wage for the more than 500 child care providers in the county comes to $23,000/year
  • Since 2018, 20 percent of childcare workers have disappeared
  • 31 percent who work full time rely on medicaid
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The image shows the greater picture of the childcare crisis.

So what's being done to help boost wages and retain employees?

7 News spoke with Deputy Erie County Executive Maria Whyte about this. She said the state budget did help support wages childcare providers were able to apply for stabilization grants.

"They're then able to provide bonuses, for example, to the childcare workers, but they're not able to permanently increase the wages of the childcare workers," she said.

Because this was a short-term fix, Whyte said the ultimate solution goes beyond the county.

"The federal government is going to have to act and they're gonna have to act all across the country," she said.

Whyte said county leaders have prepared a cover letter to send to federal delegation, but now it is a waiting game for when and how wages will get better.

"These people are raising children. It's a huge responsibility for minimum wage," said Kinsman.