Officials have been working tirelessly for years to create more child care options in Oneida, Madison and Herkimer counties. But programs continue to shut down as quickly as they spring up. Our Andrew Sorensen tells us why officials are both pointing the finger at the slow economy and relying on it to get kids the care they need.
LITTLE FALLS, N.Y.-- Despite being one of the best kept open secrets in Little Falls, people call Geri Kazmerski nearly every day trying to get a slot in the day care she runs out of her home.
"I've been in business 22 years and I've never placed an ad in the paper. There's always been a waiting list for me," Kazmerski said.
But the high demand isn't necessarily because the business is all sunshine and rainbows. The Folts Home Child Care program in Herkimer, for example, is closing its doors at the end of the month. It was one of only two large day care centers in Herkimer County.
"People attribute the closing of the child care centers to lack of funds," Child Care Council of Cornell Cooperative Extension Resource and Referral Coordinator Ellen Olson said.
She says the reason there are only half as many day care slots as there are kids in Herkimer County is partly because even the right staff for a full center is too expensive.
"We have specific regulations about how much education teachers should have in order to be with children in child care rooms," she explained.
Those costs are often transferred to the parents.
"The cost of child care in Herkimer County is second only to the cost of housing in a parent's budget," Olson said.
And it's even tougher for working parents who can't find a spot.
"Some mothers have told me they might have to lose their jobs because they don't know what they're going to do for child care," said Olson.
Although the lack of child care is a crisis to some parents, to others it's a distinct opportunity.
"If you've ever thought about opening up your home to some absolutely wonderful children and some wonderful experiences, now's the time to do it," said Kazmerski.
Kazmerski sees others copying her business model as not only a potential solution to the child care problem, but also to an extent, unemployment.
"There's a need in Herkimer County for some quality licensed care," she said.
The Child Care Council says more programs like Kazmerski's would help, but they would still like to see a large day care center open in the area soon.
For more information on the Child Care Council, visit their website at www.mycccc.org.