Wisconsin has lost a quarter of its child care centers since the start of the pandemic

NOW: Wisconsin has lost a quarter of its child care centers since the start of the pandemic

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) – Finding child care options is harder for parents because of the pandemic, and it may be a hurdle for the state’s economic recovery.

According to the Wisconsin Family Child Care Association, the state has lost about a quarter of its child care centers due to the impacts of COVID-19.

“When the pandemic hit, a lot of child cares either went out of business or went out temporarily and came back in,” Leah Zastoupil, a past president of WFCCA, told CBS 58 in an interview. “We have lost about 25-percent that have not restarted their program.”

On top of that, the industry faces struggles finding workers because of low pay in the industry, stress that comes with the job and other factors.

“Financially, if there aren’t enough reasons to be in our field, there aren’t enough reasons to take the kids that need care for those parents that want to go back to work,” Zastoupil said.

The loss creates child care deserts, Zastoupil said, that may only worsen when the school year ends.

“If you’ve got child care, per se, with the school district, what happens in three weeks when there is no school?” Zastoupil said. “So in three weeks, that child care changes for a lot of parents.”

The issue also affects one segment of the population in particular: working mothers.

“That affects especially working women and working mothers,” Luz Sosa, an economist at MATC, said. “And so we need to see how are we changing the structure of child care in order to facilitate or make it easier for working mothers to get back to work.”

Child care centers that are still operating are expecting more demand for enrollment as summer approaches.

“We have gotten more calls, we’ve enrolled quite a few new families, actually, over the last month,” said Patrice Thompson, the owner of A Promising Future Early Education Center on the city’s west side.

Thompson told CBS 58 she knows there have been difficult choices by other day care centers to close during the pandemic and has faith her industry will bounce back with rest of the economy.

“I’m hoping that more of them will be able to recover from this,” Thompson said.

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