As Parents' Work Revs Up, Many Are Experiencing a Day Care Crunch

Many family-run and center-based day cares were hit hard by the pandemic

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Balancing child care during the pandemic has been hard enough for parents – but now, as more people are returning to the office, you may find there are far fewer options.

Like many parents of young children, Bessie Chen of Weymouth, Massachusetts, will be looking for child care soon, as she and her husband balance their kids with increased demand at work.

"I already worry about if I can find someone I can trust in watching my two kids," Chen said.

Some people are working partly remotely and may be looking for more flexibility with child care, "but there's certainly a high demand right now for childcare in general," said Kim Dion with the Seven Hills Foundation's Child Care Resources program, which works with families to help connect them with child care and navigate the subsidy system.

"We're hearing summer camps reporting to us across the state that they're getting really high interest from families," said Dion, "and some of them are even already starting to fill up, which is much earlier than we typically hear things like that."

Among the provisions of the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill are $40 billion for the devastated child relief bill, something Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Rep. Katherine Clark highlighted on a tour of a Framingham YMCA Friday.

Dion said the child care crunch is not surprising, given that so many family-run and center-based day cares were hit hard by the pandemic -- "Between seven and 800 providers - licensed providers - that permanently closed since the pandemic began, and another 650 providers that have yet to reopen," said Dion.

"Right now we are definitely seeing more of an inquiry from parents with infants," said Amanda Goodwin with Little Sprouts, a network of 40 preschools and day care centers across New England.

Goodwin said the best advice she has for parents is, the sooner they can reach out for child care, the better.

"We do have a waitlist going at nearly all of our centers," said Goodwin, "but you should still call and check because with waitlists means changes are constantly made."

Massachusetts offers a list of child care resources here.

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