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As In-Home Childcare Providers Increase In N.H., Industry Workforce Still Faces Shortage

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Workforce shortages in the childcare industry mean that for some facilities, not all their slots can actually be filled.

Sherry Pratt of Belmont plans to open her own childcare center after a pandemic spent taking care of her infant granddaughter and teenage daughter. And she’s not the only one rethinking childcare. 

As some parents and caretakers adjust to hybrid work schedules, state officials are noticing an increase in smaller, in-home childcare providers, like the site Pratt wants to open. The number of license-exempt home providers doubled over the course of the pandemic from 24 to 52, according to Marti Ilg, deputy director of the Division of Economic and Housing Stability. That amount includes providers who take care of up to three children in a home.   

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After Pratt lost her job last February, the lack of affordable childcare and flexible job options made Pratt think starting her own business represented her best option for stable employment. She says she’s heard from other parents also struggling to find and afford care. 

While over 40 licensed childcare providers closed over the course of the pandemic, the total number of child care slots in licensed facilities in the state has actually remained relatively stable at around 46,000 slots since September 2019, according to state licensing data.

But many families couldn't meet their childcare needs, even before the pandemic. And workforce shortages in the sector have been exacerbated by the pandemic. Some facilities aren't filling every slot due to  a lack of staff. 

Ross Ewing, director of Mary Stuart Gile Early Learning Center in Concord, says he’s had trouble hiring employees staff. That shortage affects his ability to enroll children through the school year. 

Marti Ilg knows how serious the workforce shortage is. Ilg says many high schools ended their programs which created a pipeline for the childcare workforce over the last decade. She says the state is trying a host of initiatives to grow and maintain workers for the industry, like making education more affordable, and offering apprenticeships.

But wages in the industry are low, which can make the work unattractive. In New Hampshire, the median hourly wage for a child care worker is $11.69, which totals about $23,850 per year, according to a February report conducted by the National Center on Children in Poverty and Econsult Solutions Inc. 

“The childcare workforce around the country, but especially in New Hampshire, is mostly women who are in their 30s,” Ewing says. “And these women are the ones that were most impacted by the job losses in the pandemic and had to shift gears.”

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