Madison County childcare centers in ‘dire need’ of more staff

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MADISON COUNTY, Ala. – The childcare industry has been hit hard during the pandemic. First, being forced to close. Then, getting students back in the doors in a way that’s safe for them, their parents, and daycare staff. Now, they’re encountering a new problem, staffing.

When the pandemic forced a temporary closure of childcare facilities last year, A Perfect Start Program Director Constance Johnson was fearful of what would happen when they did re-open, and how they would make up the money lost during their closure.

“It was close to 40 or 50 thousand, and just thinking about that amount of money lost, how am I going to fund my business, how am I going to be able to serve my families that are dedicated and loyal to us?” Johnson said.

Johnson said being proactive with a COVID-19 sanitation plan helped the business quickly bounce back with students, and for that, she says they are so grateful.

What they didn’t expect was to be short-staffed almost a year later, forcing interested students onto a waitlist for all six of their classrooms in an effort to keep proper student-teacher ratios.

“There’s a lot of people that’s really not really wanting to come back to work because they have all these extra benefits that they feel like I’m making more money not working and that’s really hard on the childcare side,” she said.

Each student’s tuition helps keep childcare facilities open. The fewer students they can teach, the less money they can make. This rings especially true for another daycare owner.

“every day we lose money,” Mrs. Pat’s Owner and Director Patricia Whitfield said. “We’re turning 20 kids away at least a week.”

Whitfield has run Ms. Pat’s Childcare and and Development Center for 36 years. Before the pandemic, she had 20 teachers and more than 120 students. Now she has 12 teachers and fewer than 60 students.

“We’re governed by DHR rules they give us ratios and I will not get out of them. Therefore I will not take my children in because I do not have staff,” she said.

A Perfect Start and Ms. Pat’s have advertised for months to try and fill spots, but they just can’t get applicants through the doors.

“We try and survive. We take our kids, we take our staff, and we try to make do,” Whitfield said.

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