Loss of child care continues in county
Action team created in response to need
ST. ALBANS — Richford and Alburgh have lost half of their child care providers in the past year, while Swanton has lost 11 programs.
Overall, the county has lost 42 registered programs and two childcare centers, since last May, according to Michelle Trayah, the childcare resource development specialist for NCSS.
In response to the growing shortage of early and afterschool childcare slots, a newly created action team held its first meeting on Monday at the Northwestern Counseling & Support Services’ (NCSS) Parent Child Center.
More than 20 people showed up, including childcare providers, Franklin County legislators and representatives from the Dept. for Children and Families, NCSS, Vermont Birth to Five, Building Bright Futures and other early care related agencies.
Amy Johnson, the Franklin Grand Isle regional coordinator for Building Bright Futures and soon-to-be director of NCSS’ Parent Child Center, led the meeting, informing the group of the mission and vision of the child care action team.
Johnson said the mission of the team is to meet early care and afterschool capacity needs in Franklin & Grand Isle counties and provide local support and advocacy to retain those already in the field and recruit additional providers.
“From birth and beyond, every baby born has access to a learning environment that is the right fit for their family” is the vision, according to the childcare action team recruitment flyer.
Trayah said currently, there are 120 registered providers and 40 licensed centers in Franklin and Grand Isle. “Of those 40 licensed centers, only 10 are full-day, full-year programs,” she said.
“So the big question is how many have we lost?” Trayah rhetorically asked. In addition to the 42 registered programs and two licensed centers which have closed in the past year, another center will be closing on June 23, which provides child care for 46 kids. The losses have left Richford with just two childcare providers and Alburgh with three.
Trayah said she and her team called the providers who closed in the last year and asked why. The reasons varied: 11 providers left for higher paying positions with benefits, nine providers moved out of state, four closed due to the new childcare regulations, four retired and the rest closed for a whole host of other reasons.
“In that same amount of time that we’ve lost 42 registered providers, we replaced them with nine registered providers, two of them which did not remain open past a month,” she said, “and we’ve gained one licensed center and one licensed afterschool program.”
“So unfortunately, we’re not keeping up,” she concluded.
Trayah said childcare is at such a low in Franklin and Grand Isle that most of the time, there are no vacancies for infants and toddlers, families sometimes have to send their children to different programs and some towns have zero available spots.
“So that’s what the data is that we’re working with here in Franklin and Grand Isle,” she said. “It’s unfortunately very depressing… That’s why we wanted to bring all of our brains together to form a committee because as a community, we need to do something.“ During the meeting, the group separated into three smaller groups to discuss how the lack of childcare affects them personally, at their place of employment and in their community. At the end of the exercise, members of the planning committee for the childcare action team summarized what was said.
“The decline in childcare accessibility really stresses out families and it’s affecting how our kids are developing and the quality of care that they get,” said Deb Grennon, director of the Franklin Grand Isle Bookmobile. “It’s even affecting whether people work, how they work, where they work and even when they’re going to have another baby or if they’re going to have a baby at all.”
Laurie Hayford-Saborowski, the children’s integrated services childcare coordinator at NCSS, said businesses are unable to find quality employees because people are choosing to stay home to raise their children instead of work.
She said a the lack of childcare is also a barrier to family wellness because parents have to be home instead of seeking out services they need, such as substance abuse treatment or housing assistance. This can affect child safety and development, according to Hayford-Saborowski.
To wrap up, Johnson asked the team to brainstorm ideas of how to tackle the childcare shortage in Franklin and Grand Isle before the next meeting on June 27 from 1 to 3 p.m.
If interested in joining the childcare action team or learning more, contact Amy Johnson at amy.johnson@ ncssinc.org.