My friend Shelly spent her early twenties working as a waitress. The hours were horrible but the money was good. However,after her second child was born the hours and physical demands of being a waitress made Shelly re-evaluate. Like hundreds of other women in similar situations, Shelly's solution was to operate an in-home day care center.
Being a child care provider allowed Shelly to be with her children all day, and it provided a necessary income stream. In those days it was a lucrative way to earn a living with a steady stream of customers and a long waiting list of eager parents who wanted to have their children watched by Shelly.
Shelly eventually closed her in-home daycare center. Not because of economics, but because she wanted a job where she was around adults instead of four-year-olds.
If Shelly were still in the day care business, chances are she might start looking for a new career because being an in-home day care provider is a tough business to be in these days.
Gone are the waiting lists. Gone are the full classes. Parents are finding it harder and harder to pay and child care providers are having to change their enrollment policy. One Florida day care started letting parents pay daily rather than a weekly basis because it was more cost effective. In New Jersey, day care centers are also promoting part-time attendance- something that was unheard of just 12 months ago.
But apart from offering a family a short grace period to see if they can get back on their feet quickly, or extending the option to keep their child enrolled part-time, there’s little that many child care center operators can do to help struggling families.
“You can be a little flexible,” Napolitano said. But her supply costs have increased and she can’t afford to give her teachers raises, “so at some point I have to ask how flexible I can afford to be,” she said.
In Kansas, an agency that provides parents referrals to day care centers and home family care centers has seen a 47% drop in calls.
In Minnesota, Providers Choice- a company that administers the USDA's Food Program which provides financial reimbursements to licensed child care providers who serve nutritious food says enrollment in their program says they have seen a drop of over 400 providers this year.
Providers Choice President Gail Birch says, " sometimes they are closing because the parents have lost their jobs and there are no new kids to enroll but there are also situations where the child care provider's home has been foreclosed,and they have nowhere to run their center."
Regardless of the reasons for the decline, one of the most troubling by-products is that kids who used to have the security of a day care professional are now finding themselves home alone. In Houston, the YMCA which is the city's largest child care provider has seen its enrollment drop by 800 children since September-creating a $1.2 million dollar shortfall.
“It’s not just the impact of the funds,” said Trazanna Moreno, YMCA spokeswoman. “Parents are making the decision to let either older siblings watch younger siblings, or leaving kids alone, or putting children in an unlicensed child care situation.”
In one instance, a kindergarten-age girl was found hiding in a closet, apparently because she was scared, code enforcement officers said. In another, children aged 10 or 12 were missing school to watch their younger siblings.
"Our fear is that these children are being put in places where there are literally no safety requirements and no background screens, and we just don't know what they are being exposed to," said Linda K. Smith, executive director of the National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies.
Donna St.George, Washington Post
There is one segment of the child care industry that is reporting an uptick- drop off child care centers. In Minnesota,these centers started popping up in the early 90s and within a couple of years they vanished. During their heyday in Minnesota,which corresponded to the time my kids were young, they were located in or near shopping malls. My kids were huge fans. While we were not regulars- we probably did use it on a monthly basis.
Meanwhile, more and more traditional day care centers are up for sale.Schools For Sale has listings throughout the country. Currently they have over 700 available opportunities.
Elana blogs about business culture at FunnyBusiness
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