Coronavirus outbreak makes Maine’s child care shortage even worse

More than 50,000 children in Maine under the age of 6 live with parents who work, and there aren’t enough slots for all of them in the state’s day cares.The coronavirus outbreak has made access to child care even more difficult.Eighty percent of Maine’s licensed child care providers are open again. They were deemed essential at the outside of the pandemic. None were required to close, but many did so voluntarily, including St. Elizabeth’s Child Development Center in Portland, which closed for eight weeks.“We have more demand for toddlers than we have slots,” Director Leslee Pierce said.Pierce said the facility is following all state safety guidelines, which includes capping class size at 10 children instead of the normal 16, and parents can’t go inside. Parents must drop off and pick up kids in the vestibule.“We are not fully staffed, which has been an issue prior to COVID, and not all families are ready to for their children to come back to child care,” Pierce said.There is also more outdoor playtime for the children.To help keep Maine day care centers open, the state is distributing $11 million in federal coronavirus aid to any of the 1,600 providers that had to close or reduce enrollment.“It certainly helped. Every dollar helped,” Pierce said.A January survey by Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services found that 52,535 children under the age of 6 in Maine lives with a parent in the workforce.However, there are only 49,651 child care slots, including those provided by family members and public school pre-K programs.”I don’t think in the fall we’ll have staffing issues, because we’re suddenly receiving lots of resumes for open positions,” Pierce said.The cap on classroom size means Maine’s child care shortage will continue this fall.

More than 50,000 children in Maine under the age of 6 live with parents who work, and there aren’t enough slots for all of them in the state’s day cares.

The coronavirus outbreak has made access to child care even more difficult.

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Eighty percent of Maine’s licensed child care providers are open again. They were deemed essential at the outside of the pandemic.

None were required to close, but many did so voluntarily, including St. Elizabeth’s Child Development Center in Portland, which closed for eight weeks.

“We have more demand for toddlers than we have slots,” Director Leslee Pierce said.

Pierce said the facility is following all state safety guidelines, which includes capping class size at 10 children instead of the normal 16, and parents can’t go inside. Parents must drop off and pick up kids in the vestibule.

“We are not fully staffed, which has been an issue prior to COVID, and not all families are ready to for their children to come back to child care,” Pierce said.

There is also more outdoor playtime for the children.

To help keep Maine day care centers open, the state is distributing $11 million in federal coronavirus aid to any of the 1,600 providers that had to close or reduce enrollment.

“It certainly helped. Every dollar helped,” Pierce said.

A January survey by Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services found that 52,535 children under the age of 6 in Maine lives with a parent in the workforce.

However, there are only 49,651 child care slots, including those provided by family members and public school pre-K programs.

“I don’t think in the fall we’ll have staffing issues, because we’re suddenly receiving lots of resumes for open positions,” Pierce said.

The cap on classroom size means Maine’s child care shortage will continue this fall.