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Parents overwhelmed by child care wait lists over ‘catastrophic’ staffing shortages

From: Delaware Online

The hunt for child care began months before her son was born.

Nicole Melendez called more than 10 facilities across Georgetown and Millsboro. Each time, she received the same response: We don’t have enough teachers to take another student.

The clock was ticking: If she didn’t find someone to watch her newborn, she would need to take personal leave from her job at Mountaire Farms – without pay.

In all corners of the state, families seeking child care have found themselves on indefinite waitlists as widespread staffing shortages leave providers unable to operate at full capacity.

This comes just as parents are trying to return to jobs and offices, yet facing an impossible situation of not being able to find care for their children.

Delaware does not keep track of child care enrollment – just the number of facilities and their capacities.

In March 2020, before the pandemic began, there were 1,087 licensed child care providers in the state, according to the Department of Education.

By June 2020, that number shrank to 1,032.

Providers say they are experiencing the same problem: There are more children in need of care than there are available openings.