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Child care system is 'severely broken,' advocates tell Indiana lawmakers

Children's play blocks are stacked up on a wooden table. There are blocks for most colors of the rainbow.
Rachel Morello
Indiana has fewer than ten licensed child care facilities per 100,000 residents.

Indiana’s child care business model is severely broken from every angle — that’s what lawmakers heard this week during hours of testimony at a study committee examining the child care system.

Business and nonprofit leaders, child care providers, advocates and workers all said the same thing: there are not enough facilities, there are not enough workers and many of the programs that do exist are too expensive for the families that need them.

Erin Emerson is an economic development official in rural Perry County who helped start a nonprofit child care center in her community. It's the only licensed child care facility in the county and she said it barely scratches the surface of what's needed.

"Our overall county capacity for licensed child care is about 80 seats," Emerson said. "And there are 1,200 children under the age of 6."

Deondra Steward runs a home child care business in Fort Wayne. She talked about the struggle to find staff, having to compete with fast food restaurants for workers.

Steward said that even included trying to get her own teenage daughter to help during the summer.

“She was like, ‘No, you're going to pay me $10. I can go to Taco Bell and make $17,’" Steward said. "That is hard for us. That is what we face every day.”

READ MORE: Indiana lacks affordable, quality child care. So why aren’t the child care bills moving forward?

Join the conversation and sign up for the Indiana Two-Way. Text "Indiana" to 73224. Your comments and questions in response to our weekly text help us find the answers you need on statewide issues.

Tricia Miller talked about the ripple effect child care has on the rest of the business community. Miller is a human resources manager for Bendix, an auto manufacturing company with hundreds of employees in Indiana.

She said her employees are often distracted at work because they have no choice but to leave their kids in care they’re not comfortable with.

“When employees are distracted, not only can they make mistakes, but even worse, they can hurt themselves or hurt others,” Miller said.

Many people testified about the burden created by Indiana's licensing system. State agencies are currently reviewing licensing and regulations, with recommendations to improve them due by the middle of 2024.

Brandon is IPB's Statehouse bureau chief. Contact him at bsmith@ipbs.org or follow him on Twitter at @brandonjsmith5.
Copyright 2023 IPB News.

Brandon Smith

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