‘It was very overwhelming’: Childcare staffing shortages affecting Charlotte, pandemic partially to blame

Parents across the country and here in Charlotte are forced to rethink their childcare
Published: Sep. 28, 2021 at 6:17 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Parents across the country and here in Charlotte are forced to rethink their childcare due to staffing shortages at many childcare centers.

Many say the pandemic is partially to blame after childcare professionals got new jobs during the pandemic.

At Little Hedgepeth Academy in North Charlotte, they have a waitlist in every single classroom for the first time ever and they say they need at least 10 teachers to help meet that demand.

“It was just very overwhelming, so I think people walked away from the field,” said Sharon Pitts, the center director.

Pitts says many childcare professionals changed careers during COVID and switched to new ones with better benefits or pay.

Now daycares are trying to hire qualified educators but say they aren’t able to find people who want to work in childcare.

“Childcare providers are on the frontline. I think people were afraid and I think they opted to try something else. Whether they got more education, certifications, being able to work from home, it was probably conducive for their families. I think people ventured into other options,” Pitts said. “We have to make sure we’re meeting the guidelines of the state of North Carolina. And that means education and experience so you can’t just bring people into the field. So, you’re trying to recruit people who left the field to come back. It’s challenging.”

Pitts says right now they are hopeful their waitlist will open up sometime in January of 2022 but don’t know for sure until they start to hire.

Other daycares have had to reduce hours of when daycare is offered because of staffing shortages.

For parents heading back into the office, that can be a challenge no one was expecting.

“You could be made aware of a change on Friday that starts on Monday. And you’re left scrambling,” said Kristin Butz.

Butz has two kids in childcare currently where the hours have been reduced.

But she says it’s an added stressor on not only the families but also the childcare professionals.

She says childcare workers are the backbone of the labor force so if something isn’t done to incentivize childcare workers, there could be other labor effects.

“The fact that you get on a waitlist, and they say three years. How are women supposed to have children when it’s going to take three years to get childcare,” she said.

According to the Labor Department, nationally childcare workers are making about $12 an hour.

The median annual salary for a childcare worker in the United States is just over $25,000 a year.

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