Earlier this week the state of Texas sent out an urgent plea looking for child care operators to help care for kids of first responders and other essential workers.
Last week, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) formed the Frontline Child Care Task Force to ensure essential workers would have access to reliable child care during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In February, there were 17,279 child care operators in Texas, including family homes. As of Friday, there are only 11,354 operators open, according to a Texas Health and Human Services spokesperson.
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That’s a 34.3% decrease, and of those, 25.5% have indicated to the state they closed because of COVID-19 fears.
Kids Place Learning Center in Seagoville has been around for 35 years.
Owner R.J. Bradley said it was struggling to stay open.
“Every day I have parents asking if we’ll be open. And we will be here, as long as we can. But if it gets to where we can’t afford the payroll, what are we supposed to do?” Bradley said.
There are normally over 70 kids at Kids Place Learning Center every day.
Bradley said enrollment was down to 20 or 21 kids.
April Farmer is a single mom who works at a nearby bank whose three kids are enrolled at Kids Place Learning Center.
Her youngest son is has autism and she knows how crucial child care is.
“They’re a lifesaver for me, because if they weren’t, I wouldn’t be able to work,” Farmer said.
“Almost everyone who’s using us now is someone who’s new to us. It’s an EMT, a doctor, a nurse, it’s somebody who works at a grocery store or a restaurant worker. Their jobs have changed, but they still need childcare,” said Heather Alanis, who co-owns KidsPark in Arlington.
It’s located in the Highlands shopping center, and parents normally drop kids off for 3 to 4 hours to catch dinner or watch a movie.
The hourly child care center is now open longer to adjust to parents who work essential jobs.
“Kids stay here 8-10 hours and sometimes longer. Some of the nurses work 12-hours shifts,” Alanis said.
KidsPark has lowered rates to support essential workers, who are supporting everyone else.
Sunday, the state issued a letter to child care providers across the state searching for available care facilities.
The Frontline Child Care Task Force was supposed to launch a website Wednesday to allow parents to search for available child care near their home and work.
As of Friday, the Texas Workforce Commission said the governor’s office was still coordinating that effort.