Boston Herald, September 2021
Although childcare workers and experts have warned of a staffing shortage for years, the crisis is now being felt more acutely than ever before as the school year ramps up. “Pre-COVID, there was a waitlist for kids to come in and all of the classrooms were up and running,” said Jennifer Curtis, executive director of South Shore Stars, a non-profit organization that hosts early childhood and youth programs. Now, she said, “two of our early childhood programs… have classrooms that remain empty because we still have staffing needs.”
According to a study released earlier this year by the Boston Opportunity Council, Boston saw an 11% drop in the number of seats available for children since the end of 2017, and had permanently lost 13% of its licensed childcare programs that were open pre-pandemic. One study from the Center for American Progress estimated that only 28% of infants and toddlers statewide could be served by licensed childcare providers pre-pandemic.
Curtis said staff have turned over because they had to take care of their own families, were concerned about contracting COVID-19, or, reconciled whether they wanted to be in the workforce or whether they want to be at home. As a nonprofit organization, she’s not able to pay her workers as much as private or public centers can. “You’re teaching your little ones in a prime developmental phase that’s really going to make them successful for the rest of their educational career,” she said. “It’s very frustrating when the salaries aren’t where they should be so you can attract and maintain staff.”
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