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Child care providers struggling to keep up with costs

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Posted at 7:57 AM, Dec 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-17 11:07:42-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — While many parents struggle to pay for child care, providers are also struggling to stay in business.

Emily Barnes, who runs Barnes Childcare out of her home, says rising costs are cutting into her already-thin bottom line.

Food, toys, and utilities are all getting more expensive. But the solution for child care providers is not as simple as raising prices.

"I can't in good conscience, just look at my families and say, 'I'm going to just raise [your rate] right now because I need to make more money.' They're on a tight budget as well. Their budgets are just as tight as mine," Barnes said.

Trista Drake has operated her own child care business, Lil Stinker's Daycare, for more than two decades. She says the current situation is not sustainable.

"We can't afford to make a decent wage," she said. "And yet parents are struggling to pay for childcare. So it's a double-edged sword."

KSHB 41 talked to four different in-home child care providers. They take care of anywhere from seven to 16 kids per day. They estimated they bring in around $36,000 to 38,000 per year, before taxes.

Here's an example of one of their weekly budgets:
Gross income: 2,560 (16 kids x $160)

  • Food: $300
  • Computer supplies: $25
  • Playground maintenance: $12
  • Streaming services: $7
  • Curriculum: $29
  • Staff training: $120
  • Parties/holidays: $77
  • Cleaning: $69
  • Toys/books: $140
  • Insurance: $25
  • Payroll: $825 (one full-time employee, one part-time employee)
  • Utilities: $222

Net income: $709
Drake says one of the biggest expenses is the cost of state regulations.

"A lot of them are for safety, and those are good ones. But there are a lot of them that don't make sense," she said.

For example, she says the state made her install a hand-washing sink next to her diaper changing station, even though she already had two sinks nearby. The extra plumbing cost her around $2,000.

"They are regulating us to death," Drake said. "And they're causing several, several, several people to get out of the business because we can't afford to do it."

Kyleigh Higgins just started her child care business, Little Smarties Daycare, in October. She says the start-up costs were more than $1,000. However, it helped that the state of Kansas is currently waiving application and background check fees.

"I think just those things are steps in the right direction, and we just need to keep building on that and keep going," she said.

All of the providers agree there need to be more permanent solutions to make child care more affordable, for both parents and providers.

"If there's a subsidy system that we're reliant on, how do we make that effective, so that providers aren't jumping through unnecessary hoops," Barnes said.

Below is a list of resources for both parents and child care providers: