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Upper Cumberland Needs More Than 7K Day Care Slots To Fill Need

/ The Upper Cumberland's News Leader
Upper Cumberland Needs More Than 7K Day Care Slots To Fill Need

The Upper Cumberland needs more than 7,000 day care slots to fill the needs of parents across the region.

The UCDD Policy Council heard the first draft Wednesday of a new report set to be presented to state leaders on the problem. UCDD’s Rosa Smith said every licensed daycare facility in the region has a waiting list of at least six months with some facilities wait between 12 and 18 months. Smith said some counties in the Upper Cumberland have not seen a new licensed childcare facility opened in more than 20 years.

“We have to review these regulations, the stress on the owners,” Smith said. “We have to reduce the time frame and the cost to open these new facilities. We have to provide incentives. We have to provide support. We have to provide resources to these providers, the parents and guardians. We’re going to have to provide quality, affordability, availability.”

Smith said too often, parents must choose between working and putting their children in daycare.

UCDD Executive Director Mark Farley told the council the problem does have a solution. He said it begins with getting state agencies to review the current regulations and requirements, and then working together on a more streamlined system.

“It’s going to take a little time,” Farley said. “It will take state government working hand in hand. They don’t always do that. They don’t always work across departments. But it’s just amazing when you get in how frustrating it is. And I’m going to be honest, after we’ve had meetings, I’ve left out…I’m mad.”

Farley said the Upper Cumberland wants to lead the discussion with legislators and the governor to make changes to the current regulatory framework for daycare facilities. Smith said it can take 12-18 months to get a new facility open, with startup costs in excess of $1 million due to building codes, training regulations and other requirements.

“We have to increase the revenue, finding ways, incentives to provide to these providers, making businesses more profitable,” Smith said. “Profitable, I feel like is the key word there. By becoming profitable, we will build capacity and we’ll have happy and healthy agencies in childcare.”

Smith said only five percent of potential business owners who begin the road to start a daycare facility actually open. Adding to the problem, so many of the current providers, Smith said, are baby boomers who are nearing retirement. Whey they try to sell, Smith said, regulators remove the grandfathering that might have been in place for their facility, forcing the new owners into cost-prohibitive fixes and changes.

Jackson County Mayor Randy Heady said he reached out to his community’s lone licensed daycare provider recently about new grants available to expand day care facilities.

“She said ‘I got in this 25, 30 years ago to be able to teach young kids and help moms and people like me out and I don’t teach. All I do is paperwork,’” Heady said. “When I call and say, ‘hey, there’s a grant opportunity, it won’t cost you anything,’ ‘no, I’m not interested,’ that’s because it’s too hard and that’s an issue.”

Beyond trying to reduce state red tape, Smith said the region needs to be innovative in approaching the issue. Smith suggested more large-capacity providers and getting companies involved with daycare again.

“We have to think employer based models,” Smith said. “We need to provide incentives to employers and actually facilitate and guide our new potential or our new providers that want to show interest in having childcare. We need to expedite the site approval.”


The post Upper Cumberland Needs More Than 7K Day Care Slots To Fill Need appeared first on News Talk 94.1/AM 1600.