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Many Michigan families struggling to find child care as summer approaches

Posted at 5:39 AM, Jun 02, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-03 15:22:38-04

(WXYZ) — With summer break just weeks away, the demand for childcare is higher than ever, but it's still hard to find for parents. The State of Michigan is now working on a solution, It's proposing to open 1,000 new childcare programs by 2024.

Also, the state is promising to help with staff recruitment efforts, start-up funding and business development tools.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer admits the plan is ambitious and pricey, with investments totaling $100 million. Parents and caregivers say a lack of affordable childcare is no doubt a crisis.

Close to half of the families in Michigan live in communities where options for childcare are limited or nonexistent. Those who can afford it are often put on waitlists, and daycares say they don't have the staff to keep up.

Rachel Flanagan owns and operates five daycare centers. She loves her job, and even said she'd do it for free if she could. She said one of the downsides is turning families away because she doesn't have the space.

"It is just so hard to see the struggle that's going on and the battle because they want what's best for their kids and they want what is best for their families and there's just not a good solution," Flanagan said.

Childcare can cost as much as a mortgage. When Ambert Hoch got pregnant unexpectedly, she quickly realized childcare just wasn't in the cards.

"After getting some price quotes back and everything, I realized I couldn't afford to work and put her in daycare because it was going to be about $2,000 a month, which is almost what I make," Hoch said.

When we asked our viewers on Facebook, some sent us astounding comments regarding their search.

Ali Demming wrote that she's currently on 22 waitlists in Genessee County.

Child Psychologist Dr. Kat Lewitzke said without a village behind you, work-life balance feels impossible.

"People are in this hypervigilant state where we are just looking for essentially to survive," Lewitzke said. "You're like, 'okay I have to work but I also need to find childcare, I also can't take work off for this but I also need someone to watch my child.'"

Flanagan said four classrooms at the Madison heights location are out of commission as her team simply can't staff them. She said in one day, she had six interviews set up, but only one was confirmed and no one showed up. Last week, she hired three people and none showed up for their orientation.

Joyful Jungles Summer Camp for 5-12-year-olds starts later this month. Flanagan hasn't received a single counselor applicant, and she can't offer them competitive pay either.

"It breaks my heart when a teacher says they have to leave because they can't afford it and you know they belong in a classroom and what they can give kids is just incredible," Flanagan said.

Whitmer said the state will invest over $11.4 million to continue statewide efforts to recruit and retain talented early educators. Under the plan, a reported 1 in 3 Michigan families would be eligible for low-cost childcare.