N.H. Child Care Centers Struggle To Find Staff During Labor Shortage
Child care is one of many industries in New Hampshire experiencing a workforce shortage. The demand for care is high as working parents return to their employers in person. Unlike other industries, child care centers are unable to entice employees with hiring bonuses or increased pay scales. Without incentives, centers are struggling to fill the demand while staff positions remain empty.
NHPR’s Morning Edition host Rick Ganley spoke with Shayna Henry, director of Day By Day Child Care in Berlin.
Rick Ganley: I want to ask you how the pandemic has affected you and your staffing. How many staff people do you have compared to what you should have?
Shayna Henry: Right now we just have myself and one other employee.
Rick Ganley: And how many children do you have on a day by day basis?
Shayna Henry: Our enrollment is really low right now just because of our staff numbers. We typically have about 14 kids, at the most, a day.
Rick Ganley: Well, what would you like to have? What would be a normal complement of staff for you?
Shayna Henry: We're actually licensed for 31 children, so we're cut in half.
Rick Ganley: So normally you'd have three other people working with you.
Shayna Henry: Yes.
Rick Ganley: And what's been the big problem of keeping employees or getting employees in?
Shayna Henry: Right now, I think the unemployment rate is way higher because of the extra money that they're offering. A lot of people are scared to go back to work. Working with children, there's so many germs. We have had to shorten the hours just so our teachers aren't overworked. We have a very long waiting list, especially for infant care.
Rick Ganley: So if families are on this wait list, they just can't find care, what are you seeing parents do in order to get child care?
Shayna Henry: There's a lot that are hiring babysitters that are working in their home, which is kind of scary because these people aren't licensed. So you have to really dig deep to figure out if that's a trustworthy person to leave your child with for the day.
Rick Ganley: Are you resentful at all when people do that, or are you understanding of why they go through that?
Shayna Henry: I completely understand. Just because the demand is so high, people have to work. You have to understand that, you know, but there's only so much that we can do as the center.
Rick Ganley: Is there something else that you'd like to see the state do, for instance?
Shayna Henry: I'd like to see the state offer incentives for child care workers because our job is so important, but a lot of people forget about that.
Rick Ganley: What kind of incentives are you talking about?
Shayna Henry: Tuition help or extra sign on bonuses like health care workers are getting, but we don't get offered much.
Rick Ganley: I'm wondering about sustainability, how you can sustain what's happening to your business right now, especially if COVID cases rise and some of the restrictions go into place. You know, depending on what happens with the economy, how sustainable is all that for you?
Shayna Henry: For us we've been in business since 1991, so we luckily had a cushion for COVID. We had a savings to rely on for our bills while we were closed for four months. But a lot of centers didn't have that. The ones that had just barely opened or hadn't been in business as long, they suffered and eventually ended up closing down before everybody reopened. Fortunately, in this area of Coos County we have a director’s network that works with the people in this area to get them educated and get them scholarships to pay for their schooling so that we have more people that want to join this workforce. This isn't a field that you're going to make millions, and you really have to love children. But I'm hoping that there's more people that love children.
Rick Ganley: Shayna Henry is the Director of Day by Day Child Care in Berlin. Thank you so much for joining us.
Shayna Henry: No problem. Thank you.