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Looking for childcare? You may have a long wait

By Daniel Dunkle | Jul 08, 2019

Jazmine Canterbury recently moved back to the Midcoast and began searching for a job and day care for her two toddlers, ages 3 and 4.

She found herself having to make many calls as, one after another, those providing day care services told her they had no openings, or that they had recently finished interviews with parents for openings for the fall and it would be 2020 before new slots became available.

"I can't get a job until I have childcare," she said.

She is not alone.

Devon Snell, who runs Little Moments Day Care in Waldoboro, said she has a waiting list for infants of a year and a half.

In some cases, starting to call childcare centers at the beginning of a pregnancy is too late. The time to start calling is as soon as a couple begins planning to have a family.

Snell said this is especially true for infants below age 2, because the state requires one staff member for every four infants. After age 2, it is one staff member for every eight children.

The result is that many day care centers have reduced or even eliminated providing care for infants. At the state-required ratio, it becomes a difficult economic balance to keep childcare affordable while paying competitive wages to those with the required training.

"It's a special person who works in childcare," said YMCA President and CEO Melissa Bellew.

She said a wait of six months for parents is not unheard of, and she believes the need for more day care represents a huge gap in the community.

The cost of these services can also be high, averaging between $150 and $300 per week. Many families find the cost hard to manage, and they need the service because they need both parents' incomes to pay the bills. Some parents, who would rather stay home with children, find they must keep their jobs in order to maintain their health insurance.

Heather Staples of Lizards & Ladybugs Childcare in Warren said she does not even keep a waiting list. She noted that parents are often frustrated to receive a call a year later and have made other arrangements by then.

Staples said when she has an opening, she posts it on Facebook and often has it filled within 20 minutes.

Bellew said the YMCA considers the problem a priority, and its board is considering options to provide more day care spots within a year to 18 months.

It has become a statewide crisis. Maine Public Radio recently did an in-depth series on the need for childcare.

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Comments (4)
Posted by: William Eustis | Jul 10, 2019 18:06

Sumner, This is a great idea.  I am not sure what the status is with the old middle school/high school on Lincoln Street in Rockland but that would be a great spot as well.

Posted by: Judith H Olson | Jul 10, 2019 06:45

Excellent observations, Sumner.  You are entirely correct about Lura Libby School---it's the perfect child care facility in a perfect location.  And, your idea about Gilford Butler is also right on.  Common sense solutions to an area wide child care problem.


Posted by: Sumner Kinney | Jul 09, 2019 13:34

When Thomaston was debating use of the vacated Lura Libby School I suggested that the town convert a portion of the building to a child care facility.  My thought was that the town could lease the space to a licensed child care provider for $1 per month with all utilities included.  This rate of rent would be a great savings to the provider and enable lower rates for their clients.  The place is already for kids - no - let use convert the building to adult use  and move the town office and police dept there.  South Thomaston now has the Gilford Butler School available. Just an idea.

Having more child care encourages young people to live in your town.  Just sayin.


Posted by: Stephen K Carroll | Jul 09, 2019 07:51

Many of the Democratic progressive or "socialist" candidates are looking better all the time.  Both federal,  state  and local regulations are pushing the cost of daycare through the roof.  Years ago there were many in-home daycare centers that were forced out of business by over regulation.  The middle class gets squeezed while the billionaire class laughs all the way to the bank( which they own).  So if you have two children, you are paying more for childcare than you are making at work. No wonder we have stay at home dads.  I still maintain area churches are missing the boat by not providing low cost day care to their parishioners.  Many have the space and grammies willing to volunteer and help out the kids.  Most likely the state will not allow it. Good story Dan,  can anyone suggest a solution ?

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