May 17, 2016WCAX
BURLINGTON, Vt. - It's an issue that almost every working mom faces almost as soon as she finds out she's pregnant: finding child care.
There are an estimated 18,247 infants and toddlers in Vermont, and about 12,846 of those children are likely to need care. A new report being released Wednesday by Let's Grow Kids says the state doesn't have enough regulated care to meet that demand. The report says 47 percent of the children who need care may not have access to any regulated child care and 79 percent do not have access to a high-quality one, identified as programs that earn four or five stars.
Our Cat Viglienzoni heard from new moms struggling to find care. They told her they know what they are looking for, but finding it feels impossible.
New mom Hillary Anderson stretches out with other new moms at Evolution Prenatal and Family Yoga Center in Burlington. Five weeks ago, she welcomed her first child, Sawyer. But the fourth-year medical student at the University of Vermont knows she will soon need help caring for him once she starts juggling medical rotations and parenting duties.
"I think we signed up for our first waitlist the week we found out we were pregnant," Anderson said.
It turns out even that wasn't early enough. Anderson says she'd been warned by friends that the child care situation in Burlington was very competitive, but she didn't realize exactly how bad it was.
"I think one of the centers, the waitlist was something like 80 infants were on the list for eight or 10 spots. So it's really challenging," Anderson said.
"What I hear is that I need to start probably three months ago," expecting mom Theresa Fletcher said with a laugh.
Fletcher will soon be adding her future son's name to waitlists. And she says from what she's hearing, she may already be behind.
"When they see that I'm pregnant, they want to know are first, what names are you thinking, and then, what are you going to do for child care?" Fletcher said.
Fletcher knows she'll get about six weeks off from her job as a marketing manager at Dunkin' Donuts and then it's back to work. But she says she's nervous she won't be able to find care.
"A lot of people are saying it's really difficult to find a place that works for you, that's the right price, that fits with your schedule, that fits with your budget, that you need to start right away," she said. "But when I'm looking around, I'm noticing that is true. You've got to put yourself out there and look around and it takes time."
"Some parents get very frustrated calling provider after provider and hearing 'we don't have an opening,'" said Melissa Bonning, the child care referral coordinator for Child Care Resource.
Part of Child Care Resource's mission is to help connect struggling parents with child care. Bonning admits it can be frustrating, especially for parents looking for infant care in Chittenden County. Right now, they list about 40 openings in Chittenden County. But Bonning says that number comes with a few caveats: Some places are for infants older than a year, some may be for evenings only, and at least a dozen are for a new center, which she says are likely going to be filled quickly.
And that search gets even narrower once parents start adding in other variables, like whether they're looking for care at a home or a center, or in what part of the county they'd like to find care, and then, the cost, which can be about $1,000 a month for full-time infant care.
Bonning's advice is not to give up or get too discouraged by waitlists, which she says can sometimes be misleading because most parents add their names to multiple centers at a time.
"Just put your name on the list," she advised. "Because even if you decide that's not the place for you, at least you have your name there, and when that time comes you could potentially secure a spot there, and if you don't want it, they'll move to the next name on the list."
And child care providers say there are changes in the works that could make child care even harder to find. New regulations are set to take effect later this year. But child care providers say they could put them out of business or drive up the cost of care.