Garden City parents struggle to find child care

Child care providers across the city have long wait lists
Child care providers across the city have long wait lists

GARDEN CITY, Kan. (KSNW) – It’s a basic need for working parents: access to child care. In Garden City, it can be a major challenge.

“I’d say the needs in Garden City have dramatically changed in the last three or four years,” said Heidi Rios, an at-home child care provider in Garden City. “Just a growth spurt maybe.”

There simply aren’t enough child care providers to meet the demand, leading to long wait lists.

“Right now I have about nine or ten people,” said Alice Gurrola, another at-home child care provider in Garden, about the length of her wait list.

“Oh gosh, I have about eleven,” said Rios, “and most of them are infants.”

Some parents are willing to pay big bucks to hold an open spot.

“I actually had one parent who was paying for her spot since May and her child didn’t start until September,” said Gurrola, “because I had an opening come up, and she needed it secure.”

A study by local statistician Shannon Dick says that the city needs 485 child care slots to meet the needs of the city’s children.

He says that lack of access to child care is keeping about 388, or 80 percent, of those parents from re-entering the workforce.

“If we were to meet the demand that we have,” said Dick, “we’d get about 380 extra people that can be in the workforce right away.”

The study found that by taking just the average salary for Kansans, putting those parents to work could bring in nearly nine million dollars in annual income.

Add that to the money new child care facilities would put back into the community, and it means big money for the local economy each year.

“So we would see about a 12 to 13 million dollar increase in revenue in Garden City from that,” said Dick.

But Dick says building enough child care centers to meet the needs would take about 5 to 10 years.

Until then, one solution would be encouraging people to become licensed to provide at-home child care.

This morning, the Clarion Inn in Garden City hosted a breakfast session to encourage local businesses to invest in child care to help boost the local economy.