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Seeking solutions to Delaware's child care crisis

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Tom Byrne, Delaware Public Media
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Across the country, parents struggle to find adequate child care. In Delaware, many providers have longer wait lists than ever before.

Advocates say 96% of First State child care centers face staff shortages. Many have closed classrooms.

Those advocates launched a campaign to write 500 emails to Gov. Carney asking him to take steps to help their industry - arguing it impacts the whole economy.

Chair of the state Early Childhood Council, Madeleine Bayard of the Rodel Foundation - and Latin American Community Center director of early childhood services Karen Hartz recently talked with Delaware Public Media's Rebecca Baer about this crisis and its repercussions.

Delaware Public Media's Rebecca Baer interviews The Rodel Foundation's Madeleine Bayard and the Latin American Community Center's Karen Hartz about child care in Delaware.

A child care crisis in the First State is not just impacting families, but has serious implications for the economy.

That’s according to child care advocates who say 96% of providers in Delaware are experiencing staff shortages. Some have had to close classrooms leading to longer wait lists than ever before.

Madeleine Bayard of the Rodel Foundation says the situation has parents - and employers alike - scrambling.

Madeleine Bayard Rodel Foundation
Rodel Foundation of Delaware
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Rodel Foundation Senior Vice President Madeleine Bayard

"We’re hearing from our employers statewide that they’re having a hard time bringing women back into the workforce, recruiting; many more open positions - hundreds more - than employers would have.  We’re having employers having to make more accommodations and flexibility, allow people to work part time," she said.

Child care providers say children are impacted as well. Karen Hartz of the Latin American Community Center in Wilmington says consistency is important for kids, and right now, many don't have that.

"If I'm a child in a preschool classroom, I may go through several teachers in one school year, or several assistant teachers in one year, and each of those is coming in normally at an entry level and doesn’t have a lot of the skills they need to be able to effectively do their job," she said.

The Rodel Foundation is part of a coalition of child care advocates that recently launched a campaign to write 500 emails to Gov. John Carney urging him to make greater investments in child care.

They specifically calling on state leaders to boost subsidies for child care.

Bayard says studies show every dollar invested in early childhood education yields $10 or more in societal savings.

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Rebecca Baer comes Delaware Public Media from The Florida Channel in Tallahassee where she covered state government and produced documentary features for the series, Florida Crossroads.