BOISE, Idaho — Finding child care for young kids in the Treasure Valley is no easy task. Many parents find themselves on multiple year-long waitlists and local experts say a huge part of that problem is staffing.
A recent study by the Idaho Association for the Education of Young Children shows 91% of Idaho child care facilities are short-staffed.
"They don't have enough employees," Boise Mayor Lauren McLean said in an interview with Idaho News 6. "They can't hire the folks they need to hire quickly enough to be able to provide the service that our residents need so badly."
Regulations require a set number of teachers to be present for a certain number of children, so without the teachers, facilities simply cannot enroll more kids.
In March, the City of Boise enacted a Child Care Task Force to examine the issue, pinpoint problems, and come up with solutions. Their findings show low wages compared to other employment opportunities and difficulty filling open positions.
Child care providers in the Treasure Valley make around $10 an hour, and those required background checks, licenses, and CPR and first-aid training all come at a cost.
Receiving the mandatory paperwork - especially if the applicant recently lived out of state - can take up to eight weeks. That time is spent unpaid, so it's no surprise potential candidates have turned to other employment opportunities offering higher wages.
"With a lot of other industries raising their wages, it's leaving child care in the dust, if you will, because they can't compete with the wages that they're seeing in other industries. A child care provider can go to Walmart and make $15 an hour, or to Starbucks and make $15 an hour. At child care, you're making about $10 an hour and they simply cannot compete with those wages."
- Beth Oppenheimer, Idaho AEYC
Raising wages in this industry would result in a ripple effect, putting the cost on paying parents, many of who are already spending a huge chunk of their paycheck on child care.
The City of Boise is taking action to help fill the void. As recommended by the city's Child Care Task Force, Boise is now waiving fees associated with background checks and licensing for new child care workers beginning on March 1, 2022.
The city will also start issuing temporary licenses, which will be valid for no more than 60 days, allowing candidates to fill positions while they wait for their paperwork to be complete.
Child care workers employed with a temporary license will be required to stay under the supervision of a fully-licensed adult child care worker and a city spokesperson says the criminal background checks will still be completed before an applicant is allowed to work around children.
"There was this three to eight week wait time, where a child care provider could be taking care of a certain number of kids and instead, those kids are on waitlists because that person couldn't get into work," McLean said.
The city hopes with these procedural changes more candidates can get quickly to work and more children can get off waitlists and into the classroom.