Special Report: Daycare Doldrums

Local News

Several Siouxland communities continue to see some of the lowest unemployment rates in Iowa as the state maintains one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation.

It’s why building the workforce is a top priority of many Siouxland community and business leaders, but right now several communities are stuck in the daycare doldrums, limiting the number of parents who can enter the workforce.

“Change is different, and a baby is way different,” Sarah Miller said.

New Siouxland mom Sarah Miller knows all too well how a baby can change your plans.

“I worked usually a two to ten, three to eleven shift. Daycares aren’t open 2-10, 3-11,” she said.

Miller recently quit her evening job at a convenience store to find something that would work with a daycare schedule

“Not many daycares are open on Saturday and Sunday,” she said.

“I’ve had employees quit because of that,” Seaboard Triumph Foods Vice President of Human Resources George Solo said.

It’s an issue many Siouxland businesses experience as they look to recruit more workers.

“Even for our first shift workers who have to be here at 5:45, which daycare is open before that?” Solo said.

With more than 2400 employees, Seaboard Triumph Foods is one of Sioux City’s largest employers.

“Sustainability in terms of childcare has been a critical issue in the hiring process,” Solo said.

Solo says its expensive for his company to train employees who later quit because of challenges finding a reliable daycare plan. He says its not just the odd hours causing problems for his employees.

“Is there anything available? There’s limited daycare in this area,” he said. “It is a big hassle and here within the Siouxland area it is a critical issue that needs to be addressed.”

“We are always at max capacity,” Crittenton Center Childcare Director Erika Fuentes said.

The Crittenton Center provides daycare to up to 200 children across three facilities each year. Every age group in every building is continually filled with children as newly expectant parents sign up months before their baby is due to get on a waitlist and secure their spot in one of the programs.

“Its so sad to have a family call, need childcare and cannot find it. Then they want me to give them an idea of who to go to next and there isn’t anyone because centers are full, and there isn’t anywhere for them to go,” Fuentes said.

She says the daycare doldrums are usually much worse in rural communities.

“Some of these small towns have nothing,” Fuentes said.

“That’s a family problem, that’s a community problem….it affects everyone,” Solo said.

Many Siouxland companies and daycare providers are now working together to find ways to help expand options for more employees to access quality childcare in the region.

“I’ve been in conversation with the Y and other groups to see how flexible they will be and what kind of support we can give them to enable them to establish something that will be open earlier to accommodate our people and possibly close later,” Solo said. “This is not a unique STF situation, I think all employers in the Siouxland area are concerned and are having conversations that we can at least get together help mitigate this childcare issue.”

“I think its going to take the entire community—businesses,  providers, employees, parents and families,” Fuentes said.

“I love working with the kids,” Miller said.

For Sarah Miller, the solution to finding a job that fits in with available childcare was to actually work at a daycare.

“I also love that I’m able to walk right down the hallway and Brantley is here with me,” she said of her new job at Apple Tree Preschool & Learning Center.

It’s the peace of mind Miller needed to get back to work after having a baby.

“I’m the kind of person that needs to be doing something other than staying home,” Miller said.

It’s a feeling Fuentes believes more parents would share if there were more opportunities for quality, affordable daycare in Siouxland.

“If parents were comfortable and could find quality care, then yes there would be more people available to work,” Fuentes said.

Those additions to the workforce could help fulfill a key need for employers like STF who are still trying to recruit hundreds of workers.

“It would definitely increase the hiring pool because there are a lot of people sitting home right now and the one thing holding them back from going out and getting a job and getting more sustainable is daycare,” Solo said.

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