Daycare needs outweigh reality
The population of Gillespie County has increased over 27 percent since 2000, according to the census, and with growth comes a variety of community needs.
One of the urgencies for the increasing number of families is the need for more childcare facilities. Unfortunately, those with infants ages two and under have a lack of locations where they can take their little ones.
“I think there’s a shortage in town, especially for infant care,” said Janna Olivares, director at the Center for New Communities Early Head Start, Little Lambs program at Zion Lutheran Church. “I’m six months pregnant and I don’t know where my unborn child will go. I plan to raise them myself for the first three months and they go to Grandma for the next three months. There’s just not enough quality infant care.”
Olivares said she’d like to send her newborn to where she works, but can’t because she doesn’t qualify under the government-mandated criteria.
The Little Lambs program at Zion Lutheran Church is unique because it offers childcare for infants as young as six weeks old for no cost to the parents, thanks to government funding (although parents do have to commit time elsewhere).
Zion is one of 11 childcare services in Gillespie County. Out of 11, seven offer care for children under age two, but only three facilities offer care for as young as six weeks. Typically, most services begin at 15 months old.
Another problem is the number of teachers needed.
“The state mandates that for infant care, you have one supervisor for every four infants,” Olivares said.
As the age of the child increases, fewer supervisors are needed.
“It’s a lot of responsibility, especially with infants,” Olivares said. “You can’t take the system lightly and you need to know the babies and each of their needs.”
Another reason for a lack of early-age care is the fact that many of these facilities, such as Zion, require their supervisors to have a Child Development Associate (CDA) Credential.
According to a May report by City of Fredericksburg Executive Assistant Marion Wiggins, “There is a severe shortage of child care workers, partially due to a lack of training and low pay.”
Requirements set by the state are meant to solidify the safety of these childcare services, but they come at a cost.
“The state makes it nearly impossible to take care of an infant,” said Joann Hannemann, owner and operator of her self-titled daycare, which has been in Fredericksburg for over 20 years. “The way it used to be, you had old ladies take care of your babies, but now people have to be licensed and have certain certifications. I agree they’re trying to regulate and do good, but they’re doing more harm than help.”
Kim Bonillas, director of Kindernest Montessori School, echoed with the need for infant care.
“I can’t tell you how many calls I get for kids that are too young to start here and parents don’t know what to do,” Bonillas said. “There’s simply not enough.”
As children get older, the options of childcare locations grow. Around age two, a child can attend pre-school and at age five, Kindergarten begins.
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