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Daycares struggle to rebound from pandemic

Toy room for children classroom preschool daycare
Posted at 5:00 AM, Sep 20, 2021

CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. (WKBW) — Inside the Harlem Road Children’s Center in Cheektowaga, songs are being song, and kids are being cared for. The center has been providing childcare for almost 20 years and that includes during the pandemic.

But, according to owner Sofia Mado, there aren’t as many children enrolled at the daycare as there could be.

“This is what is happening. It has everything you need, but I have to keep it closed. The children are missing.”

A toddler room, capable of holding 10 toddlers, is closed. Mado said they don’t have the staff required to care for the children. So, several months ago, she closed one room and imposed an enrollment freeze.

It’s a common consequence in an industry that typically pays minimum wage. It’s also exacerbating an industry that’s already stretched thin. At the height of the pandemic, about 40% of Western New York daycares closed. That is the most in any area statewide. It’s still unknown how many daycares in Western New York closed permanently. The New York State Office of Children and Family Services is currently collecting the data.

“We are not set up for success right now. We are a failing industry,” Mado said. “Everything is going up, and we haven’t had our change for our subsidized rates for two years, I think,” she added.

Mado isn’t alone.

Sheri Scavone is the executive director of the Western New York Women’s Foundation. She said subsidy rates—or the government’s financial assistance for low income families— are a problem for many daycare centers across the area.

“The money doesn’t fall out of the sky, right? So, you can’t compensate anymore than you get reimbursed,” she said.

Scavone’s lobbying for the subsidy rate to be reviewed so daycares may soon get a more equitable share.

Daycares like Sofia Mado’s on Harlem Road are hopeful the issue will be addressed. Right now, minimum wage isn’t attracting qualified candidates required to care for children.

“There’s no possibility for us to increase the rates. Our parents cannot afford it,” Mado said.