LANCASTER, Pa. — Data from Start Strong Pa. found that 91% of child care programs across the state said they experienced a staffing shortage in 2022.
On top of that, almost 7,000 staff positions are open as schools begin to close their doors and parents head back to the office.
Steve Doster, State Director for Mission: Readiness, said the problem is growing.
“The early care and education sector is the sector that all the other workforce sectors depend on – if working families don’t have access to child care they have to go to plan B and many families are struggling.”
Lilli Dippner with Community Action Partnership for Lancaster County, said she knows that kids need affordable places to go with trained staff members, but finding and keeping them has been difficult.
“We currently have 51 openings – that puts us at a 35% deficit of my staff simply to run a classroom and run it safely.”
With demand for care still high, she noted, "our children are there, our families are there – but I don’t have humans to run safe rooms for them.”
For this summer, Cathy Lerch, Chief Program Impact Officer with YWCA Lancaster, said they have openings for kids – but when it comes to retaining staff, “it has been a struggle – and it’s a constant talk in any kind of provider meetings we have.
Lerch said, "we have conversations about how to keep retention of the staff we have and also recruit qualified staff.”
While she and her team are trying to find ways to keep their programs affordable & high quality, she knows that more needs to be done long-term.
“We've learned through the pandemic, that childcare is essential, and those child care professionals are essential workers. We need to actually compensate them...so they can live their lives comfortably,” Lerch explained.