The Department of Family Services talks about childcare in Wyoming

Published: Jun. 4, 2023 at 2:58 PM CDT
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CHEYENNE, Wyo. (Wyoming News Now) - Childcare has been a growing problem nationwide.

The pandemic highlighted the importance of the cornerstone of early childcare and education, which places a fundamental role in making society work.

There’s an immediate childcare gap of 5000 spots in Wyoming, and the potential need for childcare placement in Wyoming is over 25,000.

The Department of Family Services is looking at ways to help review regulations and create start-up toolkits to help providers meet the need.

The current hourly wage for childcare workers is $12 an hour with no benefits or time flexibility, pushing many workers to other industries,

“There is always this push and pull between the rates that providers need to charge in order to pay their staff a living wage, and in order to retain their staff, with how much they can charge families on and not overburden families with the cost of care,” said Roxanne O’Connor, Senior Administrator Support Services -DFS.

Insufficient childcare places more stress on families by adding the barrier of increased distance and higher costs to attain care.

It also diminishes the available workforce, mostly women, who comprise 50 percent of predominantly service and labor industries. 

“Early care and education really transpire so many different sectors from care to education to workforce development and staffing,” said O’Connor.

The demand affects who can afford childcare, while childcare providers struggle with staffing and retention.

“We’ve seen through federal stimulus dollars that investment in childcare is a worthwhile investment, and it really produces immediate and impactful results through ARPA dollars. We distributed over 30 million dollars directly to providers that increased access for over 1500 children to quality care, and over half of those dollars went to recruitment and retention of staffing,” said O’Connor.

ARPA funds are sunsetting by next fall.

Family Services is looking to supplement costs through the Childcare Development Block Grant funding for sustainability.

That’s where communities come in, and advocacy groups come in to say, ‘ This is really an important service for so many different areas, and we really need to elevate early care and education as a profession, and we really need to invest in early current education,” said O’Connor.

The Department of Family Services says they can’t speculate if the grant will be enough to fill the childcare gap or if community and state stakeholders think it’s a value to invest in.

O’Connor also said the childcare availability has decreased by 8 percent since 2020.