ROCHESTER, Mich. (WXYZ) — At the Rochester Community Schools Caring Steps Early Childhood Care Center you can see there are children enjoying school. But, there are 350 children on a wait list. And, this is just one childcare center and a problem we are seeing across the state.
“I got in at the perfect time, right when the center started,” said Sarah Chandonnet, mother of three.
Mom of three, Sarah Chandonnet says she feels so fortunate to have her children enrolled in Rochester Community Schools Caring Steps, a program that provides early childhood education for children 6-weeks-old through preschool.
She knows people who have been on waiting lists at numerous child care centers, for months.
“Friends, family, everyone I know is having an extremely hard time getting on even a wait list,” Chandonnet said.
“We have a capacity to serve 224 students. Right now we are just over 100,” said Matthew McDaniel, Executive Director of Business Operations at Rochester Community Schools.
He says state leaders might not fully recognize how severe the problem is because so many centers are operating below state approved capacity.
Data Journalists at MuckRock.com filed Freedom of Information Act requests and compiled data on the capacity levels at child care centers throughout Michigan.
They found that so many are operating at below capacity. In 20 counties, there are at least three children in need of care for every child in care. Another 23 counties, including Macomb and Wayne counties, are just below that threshold.
Caring Steps leaders says centers are trying to grow to meet demand, but they are not just hiring babysitters.
7 Action News asked Caring Steps Center’s Director Raana Aminlari, how many staff members she’s had since January and how many she has now?
“I had ten at the time and now I have 34,” Aminlaris said.
“We are very anxious to welcome high quality talent that are invested in caring for kids.”
Rochester Community Schools has been awarded grants that help pay bonuses to workers and to help families afford tuition. But, many parents in the program say if we have a shortage of child care in general we also need to talk about quality they enjoy for all.
“You get one on one support. I have an almost 5-year-old doing Spanish. It is unheard of,” said Chandonnet.